Skip to main content
Internet Archive's 25th Anniversary Logo

Full text of "Bird gods"

See other formats


This is a digital copy of a book that was preserved for generations on library shelves before it was carefully scanned by Google as part of a project 

to make the world's books discoverable online. 

It has survived long enough for the copyright to expire and the book to enter the public domain. A public domain book is one that was never subject 

to copyright or whose legal copyright term has expired. Whether a book is in the public domain may vary country to country. Public domain books 

are our gateways to the past, representing a wealth of history, culture and knowledge that's often difficult to discover. 

Marks, notations and other maiginalia present in the original volume will appear in this file - a reminder of this book's long journey from the 

publisher to a library and finally to you. 

Usage guidelines 

Google is proud to partner with libraries to digitize public domain materials and make them widely accessible. Public domain books belong to the 
public and we are merely their custodians. Nevertheless, this work is expensive, so in order to keep providing tliis resource, we liave taken steps to 
prevent abuse by commercial parties, including placing technical restrictions on automated querying. 
We also ask that you: 

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Google Book Search for use by individuals, and we request that you use these files for 
personal, non-commercial purposes. 

+ Refrain fivm automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort to Google's system: If you are conducting research on machine 
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the 
use of public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help. 

+ Maintain attributionTht GoogXt "watermark" you see on each file is essential for in forming people about this project and helping them find 
additional materials through Google Book Search. Please do not remove it. 

+ Keep it legal Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just 
because we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States, that the work is also in the public domain for users in other 
countries. Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of 
any specific book is allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Google Book Search means it can be used in any manner 
anywhere in the world. Copyright infringement liabili^ can be quite severe. 

About Google Book Search 

Google's mission is to organize the world's information and to make it universally accessible and useful. Google Book Search helps readers 
discover the world's books while helping authors and publishers reach new audiences. You can search through the full text of this book on the web 

at |http: //books .google .com/I 





Copyright 189S 

BY ChaiLles de Kay 

* t 



"Thi Zo'aiogji of tit StaU of Se^ Tori" 


■ ."^ARLY men endowed with keen feculties 
*-^ of observation found the regular return 
of birds to their haunts mysterious. A closer 
watch on their habits revealed a forethought, 
a method, a genius for work, an industry that 
astound the naturalists of our day ; certdn 
actions of birds gave the men of old warrant 
tx> concede them powers of prophecy. To 


primitiye men, and to men long after civili- 
zation was strong, such traits and powers 
suggested beings that need never die; they 
readily conceived of souls as birds and birds 
as supernatural creatures. 

In the study of man's groping toward re- 
ligious belief one factor has been much neg- 
lected: the influence of birds and beasts on 
what may be called prehistoric religion. Yet 
in the daily life of primitive men and sav^es 
these were and are as important as more strik- 
ing objects in the sky, such as sun, moon and 
stars, rainbow and northern light, dawn and 
sunset, thunderstorm and the winds. Is it 
not a fsur question to ask, whether the primi- 
tive mind did not first invest the world of 
animals with mystery, because they are objects 
near at hand, within their limited horizon, and 
only afterward rise to the point of grasping 
the heavenly bodies as beings endowed with 

supernatural power? 




In his work on the origin of mythology 
(Berlin^ i860) Dr. Schwartz contemplates the 
movement as one from heaven to earth, as 
if men worshipped the heavenly phenomena 
first; then brought them to earth and personi- 
fied them in animals. His favorite example 
is the lightning, symbolized as dragon or 
snake. Might not the movement have bec^n 
the other way? 

The tracks of the worship of birds and 
beasts are much dimmer, more overlaid by 
worship of larger things. The spirits and gods 
perceived in celestial and atmospheric bodies 
are of a loftier, more civilized sort, more truly 
godlike ; while those that retained their bird-* 
like or animal characteristics have come down 
to us very often in the lower form of demi- 
gods or heroes. Adam of Bremen says that 
the Lithuanians sacrificed unblemished slaves 
to dr^ons and birds ; under dragon we find the 

fire-breathing winged creature, a transition fi-om 



the simple bird to a more complex creature 
representing lightning, tempest and the sun. 

Odd enough to arrest the attention, at least, 
that many gods, goddesses^ and demigods in 
Greek and Roman mythology have certain 
birds or beasts connected with them, without 
obvious reason for such association! And if 
one looks at the mythology and religious sys- 
tems, the epics and legends of other peoples, 
not excepting the Judseo-Christian, one finds 
a similar condition of things, varying in degree 
of clearness. Even Christianity retains the 
dove associated with the Holy Ghost, the 
eagle, bull and lion, emblems of evangelists; 
other instances will occur to readers of the 
New Testament. 

I wish to call attention to remains in the 
early lore of Europe of a very extensive 
connection of birds with gods, pointing to a 
worship of the bird itself as the living repre- 
sentative of a god, or else to such a position 


of the bird toward a deity as to ^rly permit 
the inference that at a period still more remote 
the bird itself was worshipped. One may only 
guess how near the primitive Europeans of 
that period were to the condi- 
tion of the savage to-day who 
worships the bird which is the 
totem of his clan^ and never 
slays it save on certain occa- 
sions when its death is accompanied by reli- 
gious rites. 

I follow in mythology and epic poetry and 
legends the traces of certain birds, the eagle, 
the swan, the woodpecker, the cuckoo, the 
owl, the peacock, the dove, and try to show 
how their peculiarities and habits, observed 
by primitive man with the keenness of savages, 
have laid the foundation for certain elements 
in various religions and mythologies, and 
sometimes furnished through the peculiarities 
of the creature's habits or character the skele- 


ton plots on which a host of legends and 
tragedies have been built by the ima^nation 
of poet-priests and poet-historians of the early 

I hope to have opened up some new vistas 
into the meaning of various figures on classic 
ground — Venus, Pan, Pallas Athene, Picus, 
Kuknos, Sappho, Achilleus, Odysseus, Oidi- 
pous, Orpheus, ^neas — and at the same time 
thrown light on leading figures in the great 
epics of the world — the Iliad and Odyssey, the 
Mahabharata, the Shah Nameh, the Kalevala 
and Kalevipoeg — and upon various characters 
used by the playwrights of Greece in their 
most famous dramas. 

There seems ever more reason for a belief 
which many scholars still shrink from accept- 
ing, namely, that the living races of Europe 
still contain in their compound the strains of 
races now apparently remote or only found 
in odd corners of the world. It becomes ever 



harder to believe the stories of old historians 
about the eradication of subject races by con- 
querors on any large scale ; flight on the part 
of the vanquished must have been usually 
followed by a speedy return, with consequent 
readjustment of the population. 

The Lapp, the Finn, the Turk, for example, 
are not confined to northeastern Europe and 
the lands by the Black Sea and Bosphorus ; 
they are everywhere present as a strain in the 
so-called Aryan races. The Kelt exists in 
Germany, but Germanized ; the ancient Briton 
is found in purest Anglo-Saxondom. Their 
tongues are gone, leaving more or less traces 
behind, which philology has not yet begun to 
disentangle ; but they remain as important 
parts of the ethnic mixtures which call them- 
selves by various rough-and-ready names, like 
English, German, French, Italian, Greek. 
Myths and old belief reveal the influence of 

non- Aryan races on Europe. Physical and 




mental traits contribute to show that thdr 
blood still prevails in their old habitats, whence 
they were never totally expelled, where, on the 
contrary, they remained, to gradually mingle 
more or less completely with their conquerors, 
or the people they conquered. For often, 
as in the raids of the Huns, it was the ruder 
race that overcame the more advanced. Their 
presence is attested by place-names, and by 
names of gods and heroes, as well as by other 
words in living tongues which cannot be sat- 
isfactorily explained by "Aryan" roots. In 
some cases that presence is attested by gram- 
matical peculiarities belonging to the non- 
Aryan tongues. 

Gubernatis says with great truth : " It is by 
no means true that the ancient systems of my- 
thology have ceased to exist ; they have only 
been diffused and transformed." And he 
quotes, from Spinel's edition of Rasavahini 

of India, a passage which directly affirms the 



worship of animals and assigns a reason for it : 
** Even the beasts remember the services once 
rendered them; and when we implore them 
they do not desert us, for they know what has 

While drawing attention to the bird gods of 
andent Europe, I do not wish to be accused 
of allowing one theory 
to run away with me. 
No one can be more con- 
scious that many threads 
unite in a god or popu- 
lar hero. I do not con- . 
tend that all gods of old 
were bird gods, nor even that the popular 
conceptions of those here treated were built 
solely from the traits of the bird in quesdon. 
Sometimes two birds of separate natures seem 
to blend in one god or hero, as when he gets 
his name from one bird, but some of his 
traits from another. 


As soon as the bird or beast became hu- 
manized, many other influences began their 
play; reactions took place which sometimes 
ended in a total forgetfulness, on the part 
of worshippers, as to the origin of the god 
or hero, and the relegation of the bird to a 
symbol, or adjunct, the meaning of which had 
become completely lost. So remote might 
the connection become, that near and obvi- 
ous explanations were cast aside for strained, 
fantastic etymologies. Such was the fate of 
the hero-demigod CuchuUaind, a form of Fion 
of Ireland and of Vainamoinen of Finland. 
Amongst other curious developments in forms 
like these I offer an explanation of that 
strangest of fancies among savage and primi- 
tive men, the couvade; I am not aware that 
its origin has ever been satisfactorily pointed 
out before. 

While a realization of the presence in the 
ethnic mixtures of Europe and America of 



races now despised may occasion some twinges 
to the pride of the " Aryan " or the " Cauca- 
sian " (obsolete term !) and while the certainty 
that religions of the highest grade have passed 
through lowly stages of growth is not favorable 
to intellectual hauteur, nay, is painful to de- 
vout believers, yet such conclusions may at 
least have some compensation, by causing us 
to feel the solidarity of mankind, by begetting 
in us charity toward those who, by the widest 
stretch of courtesy, cannot be included in the 
aristocracy of the Aryan and the Semite. 
After all, even those who are not heirs to 
the religions of Moses, Buddha, Christ, or 
Mohammed are men ! It can do no harm to 
recall once more that our remote ancestors 
were immersed in the same sea of superstitious 
fears that make the life of lowly races a con- 
stant struggle with nightmares and urge them 
to crimes from which a natural kindly instinct 




Again, recollection of what our ancestors 
thought of birds and beasts, of how at one 
time they prized and idealized them, may 
induce in us, their descendants, some shame 
at the extermination to which we are consign- 
ing these lovable but helpless creatures, for 
temporary gains or sheer brutal love of slaugh^ 
ter. The sordid men who swept from North 
America the buffalo, the gentlemen who brag 
of moose and elephants slain, the ladies who 
demand birds for their hats and will not be 
denied, the boys who torture poor feathered 
singers and destroy their nests, are more ruth- 
less than the primeval barbarians. The latter 
stayed their hands at times through religious 
scruples, even though their stomachs might 
be empty. The marvellous tale of the share 
birds have had in the making of myth, religion, 
poetry and legend may do somewhat to soften 
these flinty hearts and induce men to establish 

and carry out laws to protect especially the 



birds. Unless this is done, and done speedily, 
the whole earth will soon become a desert 
without melody, given over to the insect 
world, like some lands about the Mediter- 
ranean, where no wild animal can exist and 
no gracious bird dares to nuse its cheering 





I J 

Dedication . iii 

Preface vii 

Contents xxi 

List of DficoRAitONs zxiii 

Chap. I **Tlc Douve with her Ejren 

Meeke" 3 

Chap. II Picijs the Woodpecker ... 25 

Chap. Ill Th< Cuckoo Gods .... 53 

Chap. IV The Couvade in Ireland and 

Persia 88 

Chap. V Patn the Peacock . . . . 121 

Chap. VI **Tis nothing but a little 

Downy Owl" . . . 149 

Chap. VII "I swear by the Swan'* . . 179 

Chap. VIII The Bird of Fire and Lightning 210 

Index 231 




X^ t&^n^ ® eocvutiond pag. 

Title-page . i 

Dedication iii 

HalfTitle v 

Preface. Head and Tail Pieces, two Vignettes vii 

Contents, with Vignette xxi 

List of Decorations, with Vignette .... xxiii 

Heading, the Ringdove 3 

Tailpiece and two Vignettes 24 

Heading, the Woodpecker 25 

Tailpiece, the Crow, and three Vignettes . . 52 

Heading, the Cuckoo 53 

Vignette, the Raven 81 

Tailpiece, the Hoopoe, and two Vignettes . . 87 

Heading, Pigeon and Pine-K;ones ... 88 

Vignette, the Vulture 103 

Tailpiece, the Vulture-Demon, and two Vignettes 120 

Heading, Paan the Peacock 121 

Tailpiece and two Vignettes 148 

Heading, the Owl 149 

Vignette, the Cock 159 

Vignette, the Owl 175 

Tailpiece, and two Vignettes 178 

Heading, the Swan 179 

Vignette, the Heron 200 

Tailpiece, the Stork, and two Vignettes . . 209 

Heading, the Eagle 210 

Vignette, the Peacock 220 

Endpiece, and two Vignettes 229 

Heading to Index 231 

Tailpiece 249 



Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

eager to lay it low; its musical plaint, as it 
called to its mate, did not charm my savage 
breast. I fired. As the creature fell like a 
piece of clay, I bounded forward with a wild 
joy at my prowess and picked up the still 
quivering body from the carpet of pine-needles 
where it ky. 

Then I was sorry. Not that I at all realized 
the enormity of the act. Not that I dreamed 
that I should live to see this exquisite, inno- 
cent, useful creature, and a hundred other 
species of songsters, insect-eaters, warblers 
gone firom the woods and fields they enlivened 
and benefited, massacred by thousands, netted, 
their nests robbed and destroyed, their colonies 
annihilated ! But for a moment I had a glim- 
mer of the truth. Because it was thought by 
other boys manly to have a gun and hit to 
kill, because thousands of men boasted of the 
" bags " they had made, I was doing the same 
thing, destroying for the sake of slaughter 
without the sting of necessity. Even then it 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

struck me that the bird I had seen the moment 
before resplendent in the sun was no longer so 
beautiful. Its feathers seemed to bi\ from the 
limp body at a touch. Its eye, that was lustrous 

Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

Why, I asked myself, should certain birds 
have been allotted to certain gods and god- 
desses in the Greek and Roman mytho](^ ? 
Why should the eagle go with Zeus, the pea- 
cock with Hera, the dove with Venus, the 
swan with Apollo, the woodpecker with Ares, 
the owl mth Fallas Athene? 
It could not be mere chance 
that so many gods and god- 
desses had each thar attendant 
bird; the attribution was too 
regular ; it was done too much on a system. 
What was the original meaning of it all? 

Aphrodite, drawn in a chariot to which doves 
are harnessed, is the goddess of spring, of that 
season when the male dove shines in his finest 
feather and makes himself even more ardent in 
his courtship than before. She is the goddess 
of love-making. Doves are forever making 
love and caressing each other. Chaucer speaks 
of " the wedded turdl with her hearte trewe." 
The male struts and cooes and, unrebuffed by 

Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

her indifference, follows closely his beloved. 
So the bird is by its nature and habits well 
6tted to be the attendant and symbol of love 

Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

worship of Venus seem just the opposite of 
death ; moreover it is very hazardous to imagine 
that to any wide or popular extent among the 
old peoples such an idea could find entrance 
as that the giving of life includes the taking 
away of life, and therefore that a goddess of 
fertility includes the idea of a goddess of death. 
Such abstract ideas were undoubtedly familiar 
to philosophers at remote epochs, but what is 
doubtful is the possibility of a general use of 
any symbol representing such ideas among the 

Italy seems to have retained some of the 
earliest ideas common to the myths of Greece, 
Asia Minor and the ^gean Islands, just as it 
affords some of the earliest alphabets of the 
-flEgean region which have disappeared from 
the East. One might readily argue that before 
the Greek tribes took possession of Greece and 
the Etruscans of large parts of Italy the great 
peninsulas which form those two countries, 

together with most of the islands, were inhab- 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

ited by a race somewhat homc^eneous. We 
learn to call these earher swarms the Pelas- 
gians — a name wherein some old critics have 
guessed, by (he common interchange of r with 
s, the word Pelargians, or the people of the 
storks ; and they have given gratuitously the 
explanation that the Fe- 
lasgians were so called 
because they were of 
ft roving nature and 
came and went like the 

However that might 
have been — and the absolute impossibility 
of the explanation will be greatly weakened 
when we find bird names under many famous 
names of gods — we know that a section of 
the Pelasgians or Pelargians was in alliance 
with Priam of Troy and that in the Greek 
period many were still living in Epirus about 
Dodona — the famous place for oracles deliv- 
ered through the sounds of an oak grove and 

Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

of doves sacred to Zeus, who was called Pe- 
lasgic in consequence. 

It is at Dodona that the dove appears in 
human form and thus gives us one clew to its 
connection with Venus. 

The prophetesses at Dodona told Herodotus 
that two black doves flew from Thebes in 
Egypt; one went to Libya, where it caused 
the oracle of Jupiter Ammon to be founded ; 
the other to Dodona. The latter settled in 
an oak-tree and spoke with a human voice 
'' saying that it was necessary that a prophetic 
seat of Zeus should be established in that 
place." Herodotus would not believe this » 

crude legend ; he explains that the doves were 
women of Egypt, sold by Phoenicians into 
Libya and Epirus. They were called birds 
by the natives, because they could not speak 
the language ; but when they had learned the 
speech of their captivity they were said to 
have spoken with human tongues. " So long 
as she spoke a barbarian tongue, she seemed 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

to them to be uttering voice like a bird: for 
if it had been really a dove, how could it 
speak with a human voice ? " Apparently Her- 
odotus was ignorant of the fact that parrots 
and ravens reproduce the articulate sounds of 
men. We may be sure that his informants 
were wrong in attributing the origin of Do- 
dona, its oak and doves, to Egypt, for there 
are too many analogies for just such things 
in Asia and northern Europe. 

Since Dodona was an ancient oracle of the 
inhabitants of Epirus and Thessaly before the 
Greeks, we may consider its legends Pelasgian 
rather than Greek. The northern nations who 
from time to time sent offerings wrapped in 
wheaten straw to the fane of Apollo on Delos 
caused their envoys to cross the Adriatic and 
deliver up the gifts at Dodona. Thence they 
were sent to the Maliac Gulf and passed from 
city to city on to Delos. The stop at Dodona 
shows a connection between the north of 

Europe and the Pelasgians. Oracles were 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

given at Dodona not only from the sound in 
the oak-tree but the voices of doves. 

There can be little doubt that the grove 
at Dodona was a primeval spot sacred to 
divinities much ruder than Zeus and Aphrodite 
his daughter. In the time of Herodotus it 
was the fashion to trace everything to Egypt ; 
we must look the other way for traces of sim- 
ilar worship among the peoples of middle and 
northern Europe, among the Hyperboreans, 
as the Greeks called them. And so, if we 
take the old Italian name of Aphrodite, Venus 
male and Venus female (for Italy had both) 
we discover among the Finnic nations on the 
Baltic a legend in the Kalevala of the old god 
Vaino, together with his female double Aino, 
the young girl who spurns him, drowns her- 

**Like a pretty song-bird perished '* 

and becomes a teasing or mournful water- 
sprite, according to the mood of the poet. 
After she has returned to Aphrodite's ele- 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

ment Vaino sets out to catch her with his 
nets and fish lines; she allows herself to be 
caught in the shape of a iish ; but just as he 

Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

between Pan-Syrinx and Vaino-Aino. Mean- 
time the connection of the dove with Venus 
may be found in Greek, where a name for the 
dove is oinas — in all likelihood a word taken 
up from the old non-Aryan peoples, a word 
having nothing to do with wine (oinos), but 
with the bird that at Dodona, and doubtless 
at many another oak grove, was once identical 
with a deity. 

There is warrant for the ground that many 
names of gods were assumed by the Greeks 
proper from the older people of Greece, whom 
they more or less perfectly subjected. After 
stating that the Pelasgians had no special 
names for gods, a statement of course impos- 
sible, Herodotus says they first took their 
god names from Egypt, but afterwards con- 
sulted the oracle at Dodona, fearing lest they 
had done Wrong. "So when the Pelasgians 
asked the oracle at Dodona whether they 
should adopt the names which had come from 
the barbarians, the oracle, in reply, bade them 


■m, f "^ 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

make use of the names. From this rime 
they sacrificed, using the names of the gods ; 

Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

and continued until all memory of their original 
connection was lost. 

The other Greek word for pigeon or dove, 
peleia, seems to be of Greek, not of Pelasgic 
origin like oinas. We find a probable meaning 
in the word pelemizo, to quake, quiver, tremble. 
The peleia would be the bird that quakes, as 
one sees the pigeon or wild dove quiver when 
caught or while dying — a peculiarity that did 
not escape the sharp eye of Audubon. This 
is a better derivation than from pelos, dark, 
dusky, ash-colored ; for we have no reason to 
suppose that the rock pigeon or ringdove 
would strike the eyes of early men as espe- 
cially dusky or dark. And so the old King 
Pelops, whose name adheres to the Pelopon- 
nesus, is likelier to mean " Dove face ** than 
« Dark face." 

Venus of the lovely form, sweet voice and 

enchanted necklace is therefore not merely 

from the poetic standpoint symbolized by the 

dove, the bird that draws her flower-studded 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

chariot through the ^r. Venus was the dove 
itself once upon a time, when people about 
the Mediterranean were rising from the stage 

i>7h^n thf^v fn,^\A ^nr,f^iv^ ^( Klnn^thit-cl^r 

Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

like nature shows in the name Tydeus, the 

What more natural, considering the preva- 
lence of bird worship in remote days, than the 
offerings of doves in the Temple at Jerusalem 
and the prominence of the dove at Hierapolis, 
the vast temple of the Syrian goddess described 
by Lucian ? The latter has left on record that 
the dove was not eaten at Hierapolis ; it was 
a sacred bird ; and he refers to a legend that 
Semiramis was turned into a dove. So we find 
the Indians of a clan that bears the name of a 
bird or beast refusing to kill that bird or beast 
except on certain occasions, when its sacrifice 
becomes a religious rite and the harm done it 
is neutralized by the ceremony and appropriate 

Venus retains in her later shape some bird- 
characteristics, such as her capture in the golden 
net made by her husband, who for contrast is 
a sooty and lame god of the forge. The swan 

and the sparrow have been assigned to her as 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

chariot steeds by poets of antiquity ; but the 
dove is evidently the true bird of Venus; 
other birds are the swallow, because of its inti- 
mate connection with spring and flowers, and 
the iynx, a magical bird used for one ingredient 
of love-philtres and potions. And in her son 
^neas certain bird-traits occur, such as his 
bearing his father Anchises on his back, which 
resembles the carrying off by the phoenix of 
his parent bird. The connection in the early 
history of Latium between ^neas and the old 
King Latinus, son of Faunus, must belong to 
the most remote period, antedating the legends 
about Troy ; because JEne^s the dove hero and 
Venus the dove goddess must have been Italian 
as well as Pelasgian Greek. 

We are not left without a description, such 
as it is, of the dove god or goddess belong- 
ing to the " Pelasgian *' or non- Aryan and 
probably non-Semitic peoples of Syria. In 
Lucian's time the priests of the Syrian goddess 
at Hierapolis preserved a golden image " com- 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

pouiided of various forms " which was taken 
with great solemnity twice a year to the sea- 
shore, probably to be given a ritual bath ; at 
any rate it accompanied the priests, who went 
to fetch sea water twice a year. Its barbarous 
form, which Lucian seems to hesitate to de- 
scribe, is noteworthy enough ; but what is more 
interesting yet is the fact that it bore on its 
head the figure of a pigeon. Composite gods 
with birds on their heads were dug up in the 
last century in Mecklenburg on the Baltic 
near the traditional site of a pagan temple. 
But the bird was not the dove. 

We are safe in concluding that Dodona was 
one of many sacred groves seized on by the 
Greeks when they conquered Greece and made 
over into their own, before Zeus was evolved 
and had taken the place of the old god similar 
to Vaino of the Finns — before Aphrodite the 
seaborn had dispossessed a goddess similar to 
the Finnic Aino and the nymph Syrinx. Vaino 

himself is like Venus in his double character of 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

minstrel who sings the joys of the marriage 
festival and the lamentations for the dead ; Plu- 
tarch says that Venus presided over birth and 
death. Hence the use of doves in two such 
opposite scenes as marriage and funeral feasts. 
The Longobards placed over the graves of their 
people wooden slabs with doves carved on top. 
In England the pigeon was a death-bird and 
portent of the grave ; the sick man who had 
a desire to eat of a pigeon was supposed to 
foretell his own demise. Yet the pigeon also 
brings good luck. In Russia it was once 
sacred to Perun the god of thunder, and had 
some occult power to extinguish fires ; but if 
one should fly in at a window the portent was 
just the other way ; a fire might be expected. 
Living pigeons used to be placed on the head 
of a dying man in order to attract the pain. 

Pan of Greece, the male Venus of Italy and 
Vaino of the Finnic tribes have a represen- 
tative among the German nations who was 
still fresh enough in the memory of the people 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

during the Middle Ages to have found his way 
into the German poets of the thirteenth cen- 
tury. This is the nature god Wunsch, often 
mentioned by Hartmann in a way to prove 
that he was conceived as a deity like Vaino, 
who created and invented things, especially 
grain, plants and flowers, beauty in women 
and children, power and magical strength in 
men. He often appears where we might 
translate his name by Nature or Providence 
or God, but more specifically he is a god of 
love and happiness who gives to men what 
they desire, a god of fortune, as the female 
Venus and Aphrodite were. In throwing dice 
the Venus cast was the lucky cast. To say 
that a woman had the figure or feet of 
Wunsch was exactly as if one said of Venus. 
Yet Wunsch is always spoken of as masculine. 
It is sad to think that the boy learning to 
shoot, the feather hunter and the pot hunter 
are fast rendering our woods, fields and gardens 
tuneless and given over to insects destructive 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

of vegetables, fruits and flowers. The Labra- 
dor duck, of which large flocks were to be 
seen in winter on Long Island Sound twenty 
years ago, is an extinct bird, although protected 
for most of the year by its habitat on the open 
waters. We shall soon come to catching the 
remnants of our commonest songbirds to place 
them in aviaries, before they too go the way of 
the Great Auk and the Labrador duck. And 
we know how truly Chaucer wrote in the "Tale 
of the Crow " as to the bird that is caged : 

Take any bird and put it in a cage. 

And do all thine intent and thy courage 

To foster it tenderly with meat and drink 

Of all the dainties that thou canst bethink. 

And keep it all so cleanly as thou may — 

Although his cage of gold be ne'er so gay. 

Yet had this bird by twenty-thousand-fold 

Gone eat (of) worms and such (like) wretchedness. 

Forever this bird will done his business 

To escape out of his cage, if he may. 

We are indeed sinking fast into the condition 
of Italy, where myriads of birds, neither large 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

enough nor toothsome enough to serve as food, 
are slaughtered wherever and whenever they 
venture to rest on their migrations between 
Africa and northern Europe. The men who 
have rooted the beautiful white egret out of 
Florida are pursuing it into Venezuela and 
Brazil. If some stop is not put to them, they 
will in a few years destroy this bird from the 
face of the earth, as they have banished it from 
the United States. 



Picus the Woodpecker 

OT many miles from Berlin, I was Ijring 
in a grove with my back propped 
against an oak, when I heard a laugh, a quick, 
cackling laugh overhead. I knew at once it 
was a woodpecker. I could hear through the 
back of my head how his claws ratded against 
the bark as he made his way up the trunk and 

Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

along the larger branches ; my mind's eye was 
aware how his amazing little serpent of a 
tongue was darting through dark, involved bur- 
rows deep in the wood to ferret out grubs and 
beetles. Presently he came in sight on an 
overhanging limb. He scuttled along below 
the branch like a fly on a ceiling. Brave in his 
blood-red hood and mottled back, he turned his 
bright red eye sharply this way and that. Sud- 
denly he laughed again; an echo seemed to 
return it. Then he paused. Had he caught 
sight of me and recognized man, the universal 
policeman, tyrant, murderer ? At any rate he 
moved on. In short rapid ups and downs of 
flight he made for a dead tree across the glade 
and slipped round the trunk to peep at me 
from the other side. 

I have heard Germans say that the wood- 
pecker bores into a branch and then scuttles 
round on the opposite side to see if the hole 
has gone quite through ! Lucky little one, to 

find a dead tree at all, considering the fanaticism 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

of the native forester, the fiiry with which he 
hacks down any tree that looks decayed, and 
thus deprives Mr. and Mrs. Woodpecker of a 
spot in which to feed, to chisel a cave for their 
nest, to make famous music ! 

As I watched him and he watched me, a 
reminiscence of the puzzle and maze of old 
Italian myths connected 
itself with this bright lit- 
tle chap in my mind. ; 
The bird of Mars, ( 
why ? Naturally, be- 
cause of his blood-red 
hood and eye like the 
planet Mars. Also was he the bird that 
played the part of raven to the infant Romu- 
lus, that son of Mavors, when the mother wolf 
could no longer supply milk to him and his 
brother. And then I recalled that obscure old 
god Picus, son of Saturn, fether of Faunus, 
grandfather of Latinus. To be sure ! Here 
he was, or at least the symbol, totem, animal 

Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

representative of him. But why, oh, why 
did the ancient Italiots choose just this bird, 
and place him in a line of ancestry that vied 
with and perchance claimed precedence of 

After all, I reasoned, what do we really know 
about Greek and Latin mythology, despite the 
centuries during which we have been pretend- 
ing to study the classics and nothing but the 
classics, seeing it, as we still do see it, through 
the spectacles of ancient writers who lacked the 
wide sweep of the world's literatures and the 
world's humbler races to obtain materials ex- 
tensive enough from which to make compari- 
sons that throw light ? Although the men of 
religion in their day were not so hot to throttle 
knowledge as they have been since, perhaps 
because they were not so deadly sure that they 
knew it all, and that theirs was the only way to 
save mankind, nevertheless, the heathen too 
were influenced by fear of oflFending the pious. 

Some have broken their confidences regarding 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

myths short off at the most interesting point, 
with the express statement that they are forbid 
or do not wish to tell more. Herodotus the 
peerless is one of the most exasperating, be- 
cause he tells so much concerning the world 
of his day and its beliefs that one can scarce 
reconcile one's self to the fact that he refrained 
purposely from telling more. Pausanias is an- 
other. The Eleusinian, the Orphic mysteries 
— why not have thrown a few rays into them ? 
Doubtless they were simple enough : doubt- 
less it was the very homely simplicity of the 
ideas they divulged which made them uncom- 
municable, lest the priestly fabrics overhead 
should by that simplicity appear feeble and 

So here was the prophetic bird beneath 
whose graven image the Sabines asked for 
answers from the gods ! There he clung at 
end of a dead branch, as if carved against a 
wooden column, like the pillar Ovid mentions 

with a picus atop, or like the soapstone birds 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

that Bent found in the ruins of Mashonaland, 
even as at Matiena in Italy the enemies and 
allies of the Romans figured him. And then 
for the first time I perceived why he had been 
selected to represent the god of thunder-clouds, 
before the Latins knew of Zeus and other 
Greekish gods. In some way that I could 
not make out he was using the branch as a 
drum and rolling out a peal that must have 
been heard a mile. 

Since then I have learned fi-om better, more 
patient observers how the woodpecker accom- 
plishes his martial music. By quick, vigorous 
blows of his beak the dead branch is set in 
vibration ; then he lays his hollow beak against 
the vibrating wood to add resonance to the 
peal. A true performer on the xylophone, 
he varies his drumming by springing from 
one branch to another and thus gets a change 
of note. The rolling naturally suggested 
thunder, the more so because the ancients 
thought he drummed before the rain, as indeed 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

may be the case, because the coming rain may 

Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

like the Samoyeds and other tribes of Siberia, 
not only used the drum for incantations, but 
foretold coming events by drawing figures on 
the stretched hide of the drum and then watch- 
ing the course taken by a ring laid loosely on 
the hide, as the vibration of the drumming 
carried it toward one figure or the other. The 
probability is, that before Jupiter was known 
in Italy by that name, the worshippers of the 
great god Picus, living in their wicker huts 
lives not so very unlike those of Lapps and 
Finns, used the tambourine for magic and 
prophecy, just as some of these Hyperboreans 
used and still use their own small drum. 

National vanity has made sad work of the 
study of the past. Men of science, in whom 
one ought never find that a blind patriotism 
has made them pervert facts, have insisted on 
the superiority of their own people's ancestry 
and made havoc of history. German archae- 
ologists have claimed Teutonism wherever 
they learned or imagined that one nation of 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

son why he bursts every now and then into a 
cackle ; to think what fools these mortals be ! 
It was not the Italiots alone who used to wor- 
ship Picus because of his antics, queer voice 
and rolling drum. The Wotjaks still honor 
him as a god. A few centuries ago the Estho- 
nians and Finns, who, history says, were Chris- 
tianized in the 12th and 13th centuries, were 
seen to be Christians only out of fear, to be 
still quietly worshipping their old idols. The 
Esthonians kept their thunder god Pikker 
or Pikne. Could we resurrect the temple 
huts filled with idols, which they concealed in 
lonely woods, we should certainly see wooden 
images of a bird god, Pikker the woodpecker. 
He is no other than our mysterious deity of 
Italy, Picus the father of Faunus. This is 
only one of many threads that connect the 
Finnic peoples of Russia and Siberia with the 
rustic classes, the ancient subject races of 
Italy, ay, and of Greece, and of men eastward 
beyond the -Slgean, whose faded features may 



Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

ries of the human soul within historic times. 
Yet, physically, the red man is certainly far 
removed from the European ; his legends and 
myths are practically untouched by those of 
any other continent. We must get out of the 
habit of supposing that if a legend or fairy- 
tale almost exactly like one from Greek or 
Latin' appears in northern or western Europe, 
it was therefore brought from Greece or Italy. 
More easily could it have gone the other way, 
from the barbarian to the more cultivated, 
curious, book-writing nations on the Mediter- 
ranean. But for the most part we may be sure 
that myths and legends did not move about 
Europe to any great extent, but were produced 
by similar strains of mankind independently, 
to meet the needs of a similar state of culture. 
And since all nature, the beasts and birds 
about them were pretty much the same, the 
gods who partook of similar characteristics 
sprang naturally from similar observations and 
were credited with similar lives. 



Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

Take the woodpecker as an instance. 
When we picture to ourselves the European 
savage, noble ancestor of our pufFed-up race, 
finding it a matter of deep thought how to 
keep a roof over his head, loving murder, a 
bloody tyrant to the weak, cringing before 
power, subject to periodical famines because 
of his sloth and ignorance, to disease because 
of his laziness and filthy habits, we can under- 
stand his envy and admiration of a bird which, 
in addition to various marvellous, superhuman 
traits, has the practical side so developed that 
it can chisel for itself in a few hours a neat, 
dry cave in the bole of a tree — a bird ever 
brave and gay of heart that seems to find 
nourishment where no green thing grdws, 
right under its busy beak. 

Mr. Woodpecker was thought to know the 
whereabouts of hidden treasures; wherefore 
is he a special creation of the high god Ukko 
of the Finns and has a mysterious affinity to 
fire, also a rain and thunder god. Writing 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

in 1644 Johann GutslofF gives the prayer of 
an old Esthonian farmer: ^^ Beloved Picker, 
we will sacrifice to thee an ox with two horns 
and four hoofs, and want to beg you as to our 
ploughing and sowing that our straw shall be 
red as copper and our grain as yellow as gold. 
Send elsewhither all black thick clouds over 
great swamps, high woods and wide wastes ! 
But give to us ploughmen and sowers a fertile 
season and sweet rain." 

In Finnish^ and Esthonian pikker is no 
longer used to designate the woodpecker, per- 
haps because when a word is once used for 
a god it becomes dangerous and is gradually 
dropped in its ordinary meaning. At present 
tikka holds its place. Or else in the course of 
time the initial p has given place to /, as we 
shall find that the Greeks seem to have re- 
ceived the foreign name of the peacock with 
that bird and changed the initial from p to /. 

In the Kalevala the god of the woods Tapio 
is the old bird god represented by, perhaps 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

once worshipped under, the woodpecker; his 
name contains our word to tap, strike, and the 
German word tapfer, brave. In that epic our 
friend the woodpecker is not directly named, 
perhaps because he was so very sacred ; but 
the minor wood god Nyyrikki, upon whom 
Lemminkainen calls in his distress to help 
him track the magic elk, is, like his father 
Tapio, evidently a survival of Pikker. We 
can see that from his red cap and blue mantle 
and the prayer addressed to him that he shall 
blaze a path through the woody wilds. 

O Nyyrikki, mountain hero. 
Son of Tapio of forests. 
Hero with the scarlet headgear. 
Notches make along the pathway. 
Landmarks upward on the mountain. 
That the hunter may not wander. 

{Rune XIVy Crawford's translation,) 

In German legends the woodpecker appears 
as a magic bird that knows where the spring- 
wurzel grows, a flower we have reason to 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

identify widi some species of the peony, the 
plant of Fan and the sun, that plant which 
will open concealed doors of rock and permit 
the lucky possessor to enter the Venusbei^ 
and lift treasure. The way to beguile this 
bird is to stop up tightly the mouth of the 
hole where its young are ; the bird returns, 
and, after seeing what is wrong, flies off to 
fetch a plant which will dis- 
lodge the obstruction. If the 
treasure-seeker gives a shout 
at the right moment, the 
woodpecker drops the spray 
and flies away. Near Rauen in the Mark- 
grafenstein is a princess who guards a treasure. 
She can only be released and the treasure lifted 
by some one who shall come at midnight of a 
Friday, carrying a white woodpecker. She is 
the descendant of Frau Venus in the Venus- 
berg, with whom, like Ulysses in the island 
of Kalypso, the knight Tannhauser passed 
days of happiness and remorse. 

Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

We know from Pliny what great store the 
auspexes of Rome set by the woodpecker 
** known by his cognomen of Mars '* and 
from mediaeval German writers that a wood- 
pecker flying to the right was an omen of 
good luck. Picus the god was figured as a 
youth with this bird on his head. Though 
Pikker or Pikne is still familiar to Finns and 
Esthonians in fairy stories, where he is known 
as the son of thunder, he seems to have lost 
all his birdlike qualities. The object with 
which he strikes his enemies, it is true, is con- 
ceived of as a musical instrument, but neither 
drum nor tambourine ; it is the ancient instru- 
ment of the Scotch and Irish — the bagpipes. 
In one story found in Esthland the son of 
thunder saves himself from the power of an 
evil genius by stealing the thunderclap in the 
shape of bagpipes from his father Kou and 
giving them up as a ransom. When Old 
Horny has them locked up in hell no rain 
falls and the earth dries up. In another folk- 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

tale it is Pikne who is thunder god and owner 
of the pipes, and it is the devil himself, plainly 
at an earlier date some goblin not so malignant 
as Satan, who steals and makes off with them. 

Pikker is a word found again in German 
Specht, woodpecker. Finnic tribes find it 
inconvenient to pronounce s and p together. 
The word Spickgans, smoked goose, appears 
in Esthonian as pikk-hani. 

The Kelts seem to have applied a word like 
picus and Pikker to the raven, with a change 
of initial p to f; since Prish has fiach (feek) 
for that wily bird of magic and prophecy. It 
is a bird with human traits, for although the 
woodpecker laughs, the raven can be taught 
to speak. Beside Picus the ancient Italians 
had pica, the magpie — another wise, uncanny 
bird. The Greeks called the woodpecker with 
circumlocutions the tree-chiseller, or else 
pelekas^ the hewer with an axe, as if his 
ordinary name had become too sacred to pro- 
nounce. Aristophanes called him oak-striker; 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

when he spoke of the poikilis or " speckled " 
bird that eats the eggs of the lark he probably 
referred to the magpie. 

The importance of the woodpecker in the 
eyes of Roman soothsayers can hardly be over- 
estimated. I have a seal, scarab-like in form, 
wrought in the old Italiot way of rounds con- 
nected by grooves, which I obtained at Flor- 
ence. It belongs to the sort called Etruscan. 
The seal shows a man seated with a bird be- 
fore him, which he appears to be teaching a 
trick. As usual in these rude seals, it is not 
easy to fix the species of the bird ; but it seems 
a woodpecker to which the provincial seal- 
cutter has given a somewhat longer tail than 
nature allows Mr. Picus. That the man is an 
auspex or soothsayer is reasonably certain from 
the fact that he wears the conical cap seen on 
the little statuette with Etruscan inscription 
in the Vatican Museum, a statuette generally 
allowed to be that of an Etruscan augur or 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

One may recall here the classic story of 
-ffilius the praetor, chief of a famous family of 
Rome at the time of Hannibal's entrance into 
Italy. As he sat on his chair a woodpecker 
flew down and settled on his head. All was 
excitement and alarm at the prodigy ! The 
bird was caught and the augurs called in. 
These declared that its coming meant disaster, 
but whether to -flElius and his clan or to the 
republic depended on circumstances. Should 
the woodpecker be freed unharmed, great pros- 
perity would result to -flElius and his family, 
but disaster would come to the republic. 
Should the bird be killed, then the republic 
would prosper, but the -flElian family would 
meet with ruin. 

In a dilemma of this sort the hero always 
prefers his fatherland to his family, otherwise 
the story would not be told. -Sllius killed the 
living symbol of the god Picus and at the bat- 
tle of Cannae, which occurred soon after, he lost 
seventeen members of his clan. 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

Doubdess this is the bird of popular super- 
stition in White Russia which is described with 
eyes of fire and a fiery beard, a guardian of 
treasures, and probably not the demon repre- 
senting the underground gods of wealth, Pluto 
or Kuveras, which Gubernatis suggests. In 
one of the stories of the Pentameron a fairy 
in bird-form stops the king who is about to 
kill Pontiella. In order that Pontiella and 
her child shall not die of starvation, the bird 
picks a hole in the tower where she is confined 
and gives them food. Here we have the 
magic woodpecker again. 

Ravens and crows were greater favorites with 
the augurs, since their wide flight and distinct 
voices made them convenient for divination. 
That was a strange tale of Valerius Corvus, 
who accepted the challenge of a huge Gaul to 
single combat during the invasion of Lower 
Italy by the Kelts under Bran the " raven " or 
Brennus. During the duel he was aided by a 
crow that attacked the Gaul's face with beak 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

and wing and so confused him that Valerius 
made his foe an easy prey, whence Valerius 
was also Corvus thereafter. Here was a crow- 
counsellor, like the ravens Hugin and Mugtn 
that whispered advice in the ears of the Norse 
god Odin. Note that the famous Gaulish con- 
queror of Rome had a name meaning a bird. 

A closer analogy is found in Wales to the 
legend of Valerius Corvus : in a Mabinogi the 
hero Owein son of Urien is accompanied by 
an army of ravens, which attack his enemies 
like so many Stymphalian birds. Woden's 
ravens have their parallel in Ireland. The 
hero Cuchullaind had two magic ravens that 
announced to him the coming of his foes and 
were attacked by them for that reason. In 
Japan there is a special kind of demon or 
goblin called Karaku-Tengu " crow-demon," 
having wings and the beak of a crow in place 
of nose. I have an egg-shaped talisman, used 
as a button, carved of hard wood, which shows 

delightfully the birth of a Karaku-Tengu. The 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

Htde fellow has just chipped the shell ; his 
beak, wing and three-fingered hands are visible 
where the egg-shell has been broken by his 

It is not strange that birds fescinated the 
andent peoples; they fascinate modern men 
who think they know 
everything and for the 
most part are too ab- 
sorbed by the struggle 
for life in cities to look 
long and closely at nature. In Rhode Island 
I have watched on Conanicut cliffs a row of 
sea-birds perching in a recess of the rock near 
Horse's Head. About sundown, one after the 
other, these birds would fly for out over the 
swirling sea to the big black Kettle Rock 
opposite Castle Hill, turn and return to its 
perch. When the last had performed this 
solemn rite, all went to sleep; it was a fare- 
well to the sun. And indeed, when one 
thinks of the tailor-birds that weave, and the 

Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

rails that hold dancing-parties, and those birds 
that build bowers to sport in and deck them 
with shining objects ; when one thinks of the 
preternatural cunning of the magpie, and recol- 
lects how prone birds are, even dull domestic 
fowl, to make sudden, inexplicable calls and 
rushes ; when one notes the clock-like regu- 
larity of the return of migratory birds to their 
old haunts and their supernatural gift of find- 
ing a way by night and fog — it is no wonder 
that not only poets, but tiresome, humdrum 
persons believed in their magical power at 
the earliest epochs. 

What schoolboy has not marvelled at that 
strange story of Philomela and Procne, daugh- 
ters of Pandion king of Athens ? According 
to the legend Pandion's son-in-law Tereus was 
changed to a hoopoe or a hawk, Philomela to a 
nightingale, Procne to a swallow. The wicked 
king of Thessaly who wooed and won Philo- 
mela bears in his name (Tereus the piercer, 

borer) the most notable trait of our little friend 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

woodpecker. Pandion " Pan the god *' was, as 
presently we shall see, alternately the eagle, 
peacock or cuckoo. 

Tereus Woodpecker first marries Philomela 
Nightingale, and then, tiring of her, persuades 
Pandion (his father-in-law) and Procne Swal- 
low (his sister-in-law) that Philomela is dead; 
whereupon he gets also Swallow to wife. On 
the journey home Woodpecker cuts out Swal- 
low's tongue so that she may never tell of his 
crime when she discovers that her sister is still 
alive. Whence it followed that the swallow 
from that time forth could only make twitter- 
ing noises like barbarians — the Greeks said 
that barbarians did not speak, they twittered. 

When we consider Lemminkainen and II- 
marinen in the poetry of Finland we find this 
story again, with the cuckoo, not the wood- 
pecker, as the villain of the play. 

The wondersmith Ilmarinen, whose first wife 
was slain through the malice of Kullervo, goes 
again to Pohjola to woo her sister. But the 
4 49 

Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

sister fears the same fate and refuses him; 
whereupon he seizes her and, placing her in his 
magic sleigh, carries her off. As she gives 
him none but bitter words and constantly wails 
and complains, he loses patience and turns her 
into a gull ; whence it is that the gull fre- 
quents lonely seas and shores and never ceases 
to complain. Finally we must not forget a 
parallel of Picus of Italy and Pikker of Estho- 
nia among the Old Prussians, a Slavic race pro- 
bably mixed with Finnic tribes. They had an 
idol to which human beings were sacrificed. 
When pleased, this idol was heard to laugh ! 
Its name was Picollus ! " der olle Pikker " ? 

But before turning to other bird gods I may 
say that the expression the Greeks used for a 
foreign tongue "twitter" has always seemed 
to me to point to a Slavonic language as the 
first which suggested the idea. If one listens 
to Polish or Vendish, without understanding it, 
there is a peculiarly soft twittering quality to 
be remarked in the utterance, probably due to 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

the comparative infrequency of broad vowels, 
the softening of consonants and vowels with i, 
and the constant use of the soft sh. Geo* 
graphically, too, the idea that to Greeks a Slav 
tongue was the nearest and commonest of bar- 
barian languages has everything to recommend 

Notwithstanding the horror with which the 
crime of Tereus was regarded by antiquity he 
was worshipped after death, another proof that 
we have in him a god whose story is myth 
become history. Pausanias mentions his tomb 
in his description of Attika. According to 
the Megarians he was a king of the district of 
Pagai in their land. It will be remembered 
that to punish him his wife slew their son 
Itys and served him at a banquet ; but Tereus 
was not able to avenge the crime on the 
vengeful woman he had wronged. He died 
in Megara by his own hand, reports Pausa- 
nias, and as soon as he was dead they built 
a cairn over his grave and worshipped him 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

every year. But instead of scattering gnuns 
of barley, they scattered little pebbles on his 

Such wonderful tales were invented by the 
Greeks to explain the remnants of a worship 
of the woodpecker found among the earlier 
denizens of Greece. 

The Cuckoo Oods 

THOUGH I had often heard the cry of 
the cuckoo on a visit to Europe as a 
child, the first cuckoo I ever saw was in the 
west of Ireland long after. A brownish bird 
the size of a pigeon, looking somewhat like 
a hawk, flew across the road, and, settling in a 
field, hopped or rather scrambled about in a 
rather hawk-Uke way. I did not recognize 
him ; but when my driver told me who he 
was I descended with alacrity and was amused 
at the clumsiness on foot of a bird that seemed 
ready enough on the wing. 

Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

" The awkward gawk ! " I murmured, re- 
membering the common term for him ; and as 
I beheld his labored gait and bethought me of 
certain old heroes of Ireland, whose curious 
traits and adventures have never been explained, 
I fell to thinking — 

Of dders of olde time and their awke dedys. 

At last I had clapped eyes on a bird whose 
peculiar ways and life had given me a clew 
to legends woven about various mighty men 
of yore, though his familiar name of gawk 
among the English, Gauch among the Ger- 
mans, is considered more suggestive of clown- 
ishness and stupidity than of heroism. For 
he is the unlucky, left-handed, gauche bird, 
whose name has enriched the French language 
with terms for the left hand and lack of dex- 
terity. The good and bad in him seems to 
have impressed men and been carried by the 
old peoples to extremes. 

Since then I have often heard and sometimes 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

seen the cuckoo in his favorite haunts — some 
country neighborhood where trees and shrubs 
are abundant enough to give him rests in his 
short flights and supply the smaller song- 
sters with convenient nesting-places, which 
the cuckoo-mother can use in her way. One 
hears them to the right and left as one punts 
about the canals of the upper Spree in that odd 
little country of the Vends, where the old Vend- 
ish tongue still lingers among the rustics. What 
a softness, what a dreaminess, yet what alert- 
ness, in their call 1 Very different is the sound 
of the American cuckoo — a smaller bird with 
a louder, hastier, longer note, and a family life 
that does not lend itself to the grievous charges 
made against its European cousin. 

Difficult to distinguish whence it comes, the 
call of the old-world cuckoo baffles the listener 
like the voice of a ventriloquist, as indeed it is. 
There 's your uncanny bird, if ever there was 
one ! And the country people, not content 
with charging against it the actual tricks and 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

misdeeds it plays on other birds in its deter- 
mination to escape the hardest part of the rear- 
ing of its young, have saddled the cuckoo with 
all sorts of gratuitous crimes. It is said to live 
in lawless love, like the cowbird of America. 
It is accused of killing the young in the nest 
of the little bird where it has placed its own 
egg to be hatched. It is charged with desert- 
ing its own offspring forever, out of pure 
laziness and hardness of heart, nay, even of 
devouring its foster-parents ! 

But some careful observers have maintained 
that cuckoos pair for life and are steadfast 
mates, do not directly kill the young of the 
foster-birds nor break their eggs; yet they 
acknowledge that the female cuckoo removes 
the eggs of the foster-mother after its own 
child is hatched. The mother keeps her eye 
on each nest where one of her eggs has been 
placed, watches over the growth of her off- 
spring, and, when the latter is ready to fly, 
takes possession of it, and presumably begins 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

at once to point out to it the advantage of 
being a parasite, teaching it how to profit by 
the kindliness of similar hosts thereafter. 
Such refinements of observation can scarcelv 

Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

like Baldamus, we know that this is not the 
case. Believing as they did, they proceeded to 
argue thus : the young cuckoo must grow up 
ignorant of father, mother, brother and sister ; 
when it comes to mate, what is to prevent it 
from pairing with a near relative ? A tragedy 
is always possible. Here is the clew to many 
a fairy story which has 
come down from some 
legend of a heathen god, 
whose living symbol was 
the cuckoo, to more than 
one great drama, and to 
numberless strange tales, 
revolting to modern decency, otherwise inexpli- 
cable in their seemingly gratuitous immorality 
— tales that were repeated in the inglcnook as 
of historical personages, tales — 

Of elders of olde time and their awk:e dedys. 

I am not aware that this provenance of 

many folk-tales, epical songs, ballads, l^cnds 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

and myths has ever been pointed out before ; 
bird gods seem to have attracted little atten- 
tion ; but the truth of that provenance can, I 
believe, be substantiated from the mvtholoev 

Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

enough to root them out in this quarter and 

absorb them in that. Their Kalevala and the 

ballads and fairy stories which failed to be 

woven into that epic, are not only admirable as 

poetry, but are mines from which we can draw 

in order to repair the gaps in the myths and 

folk-lore of more than one famous race — 

Greek, Latin, Keltic, Scandinavian. 

The Rigveda of the old Indians speaks of 

the cuckoo in such a way that we see at once 

it must have been a god to earlier inhabitants. 

The kokila, as he is called in Sanskrit, is 

there said to be a bird who knows all things, 

not only what has happened, but what shall 

happen. To the inhabitants of India, as well 

as to Europeans, is he a prophetic bird. The 

same is true of two species of cuckoos in New 

Guinea. In Germany he foretold riches or 

poverty for the rest of the year, also the 

number of years the listener had to live, also 

the time that must elapse before marriage. 

Goethe has used these ideas in his verses 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

"Fruhlings-Orakel." Hesiod taught the Greek 
former to look out for three days of rain 
when he first heard the cuckoo's note. On 

Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

male god of love, like the male Venus of Italy, 
and has his female counterpart in Lemmetar. 
It is from this word that old English got 
" leman " female lover. A closer parallel still 
to the male and female Venuses of Italy are 
Vaino and Aino in the Kalevala, brother and 
sister demigods, and the old Italiot deities of 
agriculture called Pales, also brother and 
sister. Venus and Vaino are indeed the same 
word. In his form of Ilmarinen, air god, 
Vaino has the attributes of Vulcan, and just 
as Vulcan is unable to please Venus, so Vaino 
is not fortunate with Aino. 

No stated bird is given to Lemminkainen 
in the Kalevala ; but his nickname Kauko 
and the general looseness of his morals point 
to the cuckoo. Nor is it expressly said that 
Vaino the old singer, half bard, half demiurge, 
who is the chief actor of divine and human 
parts in that epic, has a particular bird as- 
signed him. Rather are all birds obedient to 

him and he understands through his magic 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

the language of all, like unto Solomon. When 
he plays the harp all birds gather and the 

Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

Wainamoinen thus made answer : 
** Therefore is the birch left standing 
That the birds may rest within it» 
That the eagle there may rest him. 
There may sing the sacred cuckoo." 
Spoke the eagle, thus replying : 
** Good indeed thy hero judgment 
That the birch-tree thou hast left us, 
Left the sacred birch-tree standing 
As a resting place for eagles 
And for birds of every feather." 

{I^une //, Crawford's translation.) 

The cuckoo also asks Vaino why he has 
left the birch-tree and gets the same answer. 
Wherefore, out of gratitude, the eagle brings 
fire from heaven, wherewith the forests can be 

Lemminkainen's bird especial, the harbinger 
of spring — sui-linda or summer bird, as the 
Esthonians call it — the cuckoo is even more 
pronouncedly a sacred, auspicious creature 
than the woodpecker. In some parts of 
Germany the people still believe that when 
you hear his call for the first time in spring 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

you can learn the number of years you have 
to live. All you do is to count the calls. 
Good luck or the reverse is prophesied by the 
direction from which the sounds come — if 
from the right, good; if from the left, bad 

In Sweden and Denmark they have formu- 
las for listening to the cuckoo, which fix good 
or bad luck to the points of the compass. 
The words that rhyme with north, south, 
east, west, being easily kept in memory, the 
Swedish peasant has his rule always ready; 
thus (gok being our ominous bird the gawk) : 

North : norr-gok, sorg-gok ! (sorrow-bird) 

South : sor-gdk« smor-gdk ! (butter-bird) 

East : 6ster-g6k, troste-gok ! (consolation-bird) 

West: vester-gok, basta-gok ! (best of birds) 

Flat sweet cakes were baked in spring, 
shaped rudely like the cuckoo and eaten in 
dim remembrance of some heathen ceremonial. 
In Old England a special ale was brewed, 
called cuckoo-ale, and drunk out of doors. 
5 65 

Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

Apparently Finns and Esths were in the 
habit of decking out the tall yokes about 
their horses' necks, as well as their sledges, 
with copper or brass cuckoos when they 
wished to be particularly fine, as when they 
went a-wooing or drove to a wedding. When 
Ilmarinen, son of the air and wondersmith, 
starts for Pohjola to secure the fair maid of 
the North for his bride, knowing that sly old 
Vaino is bound on the same errand, he does 
everything to make himself acceptable to the 
girl and her covetous mother by indicating 
his own wealth. Thus he orders his best 
sleigh with all its decorations — 

Take the fleetest of my racers. 
Put the gray steed in the harness. 
Hitch him to my sledge of magic ; 
Place six cuckoos on the break-board. 
Seven bluebirds on the crossbow. 
Thus to charm the northland maidens, 
Thus to make them look and listen 
As the cuckoos call and echo. 

{Rune XVIII, Crawford's transioHon) 

Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

Here the crossbow means the bow above 
the yoke and " bluebirds " are not the sweet 
spring warblers known by that name in 
America, but another designation for the 
cuckoo. The repetition six and seven does 
not indicate different objects, as one might 
readily suppose ; it is a peculiarity of Finnish 
poetry to repeat the same thing in successive 
verses with a larger numeral in each verse. 
" Golden " is the usual adjective for the 
cuckoo, but "blue" is often added, the one 
adjective being poetic exaggeration for the 
bluish-brown back, the other for the gray 
sides of the cuckoo. As the sleigh he orders 
out is his " sledge of magic " and as he was 
the Vulcan of the Finnic tribes, we must 
suppose that these six or seven birds were 
automata of metal that imitated the cuckoo's 
voice like our clocks and sang when the 
sleigh moved — a superior sort of sleighbells. 

The cuckoo was a marriage bird and yet 
a sinister bird of crime ; he was addressed as 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

" golden " and " beauty " also with other 
terms of admiration; but he seems to have 
been also feared. Perhaps because he is so 
** awke " on the ground, his name is often 
the synonym for lubberliness and stupidity. 
Zeus took the form of a cuckoo to approach 
Hera, at once his sister and his wife, and a 
bass-relief shows the cuckoo on the sceptres 
he and she carry in a marriage procession. 
Why the cuckoo myth can be detected even 
among the haughtiest gods of Olympus will 
be seen when we come to speak of Pan. 

The birds carved in soapstone found by 
Bent in the ruins of Zmbabwe, Mashonaland, 
which were left there by some as yet unde- 
termined race of intruders and gold miners, 
may prove to be rude attempts to portray 
the cuckoo, rather than the woodpecker. 

When we recall the superstitions as to birds 

that still live in Europe — as, for example, 

that a bird flying into a house is unlucky, a 

stork deserting a homestead portends death, a 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

hen crowing at a wedding augurs that the wife 
will wear the breeches, swallows building on 
a house bring good luck, gulls inland bode 
a storm — we begin to realize what a body 
of religious belief must have once existed in 
Europe with respect to birds alone, since these 
are merely fragments, survivals down to his- 
torical times, remnants of a vast bird lore, 
bird religion. Consider that in order to have 
birds to augur from, as they picked up the 
sacred food, or as they were slaughtered and 
inspected, the Romans took the trouble to 
carry pullets about with them in war (auguria 
puUaria) and assigned them a special place in 
their entrenched camps. The auspex (avi- 
spex, bird seer) presided at the founding of 
Rome, Latins and Sabines having found that 
birds were interpreters of the future long before 
Rome was. The Etruscans, whose mastery 
in religion the Romans acknowledged, were 
adepts in reading the signs of the bird and 
annually furnished Rome with bird-readers. 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

The amount of this bird worship was so 
great and its existence so universal that it 
seems illogical to suppose the transfer of a 
bird myth from Greece to Italy, or from Italy 
to Finland or Ireland, because we find the 
same framework of the myth in those several 
lands. Why could not the same story have 
grown in each ? It is more logical to deduce 
from such resemblances a similarity of race and 
cultivation in prehistoric times, especially if 
other proofs exist that in remote epochs there 
was far less diversity among the populations 
of Europe than in later days. 

The Finns, now for the most part Russian 
subjects, live on the Baltic north and east of 
the gulf of Finland; while their cousins the 
Esthonians, also Russian, dwell to the south of 
the gulf. The Lapps to the northward have 
always seemed to supply the Finns with an 
ideal of what magicians, wind-wise sooth- 
sayers and conjurers should be ; but, for the 

Esths, the Finns were quite good enough in 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

that line. In the Kalevala of the Finns the 
demi-gods Vaino, Ilmarinen and Lemmin- 
kainen go northward, as if to Lapland, to beat 
the toothless hag of Pohjola at magic, win her 
daughters for wives, or rob them, if necessary, 
and especially to carry ofFthe sampo — that fruit, 
flock and riches-giving talisman, now conceived 
of realistically as a mill, again thought of as a 
constellation, or the rainbow, or the sun's face 
itself. In the Kalevipoeg, an epic of Esthland 
drawn together like the Kalevala from ballads 
scattered and conflicting at times, the sorcerer 
of most note is a Finn, and the demi-god of 
the Esths swims northward from Esthonia to 
avenge on him the loss of a mother. As Vaino 
and Lemminkainen defeat by magic the Hag 
of the North, so Kalevipoeg the giant rudely 
pulverizes the magician of Finland, who, as we 
shall see, stands to him in a relation peculiar to 
cuckoo gods. 

Bird lore is even more frequently mentioned 
in the Esthonian than the Finnish epic. The 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

first canto of Kalevipoeg opens mth the in- 
vocation — 

Steer, O bard of honied accents. 
Steer the shallop of your ballads. 
Of your song the slender shallop. 
Turn it deftly to the seacoast. 
Where the eagle, golden proverbs—* 
Where the raven, silver stories — 
Swans, their hero-lays of copper 
Have from ancient days kept hidden. 
That were formerly outspoken. 
Cry it forth, ye birds of wisdom. 
Utter it, ye ocean billows. 
And, ye winds, the secret pubfish — 
Where may lie the Kalev's cradle. 
Where the homestead of the heroes I 

The birds here mentioned are valued in de- 
scending scale by the adjectives golden, silver, 
copper; which reminds one of the South 
American legend of the origin of chiefs, nobles 
and people from three celestial eggs, of gold, 
silver and copper respectively. The eagle and 
raven are favorites of mythology; the swan 

is of that Siberian variety which makes rich 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

melody and does literally sing its death-song 
when it is caught by the ice of a freezing 
night and cannot loose itself from the spot 
to which it has been frozen. 

Kalev the father of Kalevipoeg, whose name 
is also found in Kalevala, was of the race of 
giants or demi-gods. A widow finds a pullet> 
a starving crow and partridge egg ; she brings 
them home and puts them in her locker. The 
pullet broods the egg and hatches out a girl, 
Linda, whose name means bird; the pullet 
herself turns into another girl Salme; and 
the starved crow becomes a domestic drudge. 
What could be more redskin than such a 
legend? Linda is wooed successively by the 
sun, the moon, the winds, the water and the 
son of the richest king of the North — all in 
vain ! She will take none but Kalev. Their 
son Kalevipoeg " Kalev's boy " is a bird of a 
boy, as the expression runs — born, be it noted, 
after the death of his father — a hero of enor- 
mous eating and drinking powers, of colossal 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

strength, lazy, but not good-for-nothing, fated 
to misfortune, while yet a lawgiver and ruler 
of his people. 

Throughout his life, at critical moments, 
birds are ever at hand to warn and pilot him 
through the dangers that beset him. As Scan- 
dinavian Si^fried is led by birds, so is also 
Kalev's boy ; as Siegfried has a wondersword 
forged and kills the fot^e mas- 
ter, so Kalev's boy, and he 
kills the smith's son. But the 
crime that the latter commits 
with this sword, and the story 
of the sword as the avenger on its own mas- 
ter of that crime, are finer touches than any- 
thing in Si^fried's tale. Again, the adventure 
of Siegfried with the martial Brunhild, and that 
of the prince in the fairy-tale with the sleeping 
beauty, are echoes of the cuckoo myth based 
on the heroic cuckoo that rouses the blossom 
— that enchanted maid of spring — from her 
long winter sleep. We shall find this idea. 

Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

now happy, now tragic, concealed under the 
history of other heroes in very distant lands. 

The parallel with Siegfried goes much 
farther, if, as we can do in all these old tales, 
we put Siegfried's father for himself; since it is 
the commonest of all traits in mythology to 
find the same plot under the life history of 
father and son, or under that of earlier and later 

It will be remembered that Sigurd dishonors 
his own sister ; Kalevipoeg also ruins his sister, 
but does not know her at the time. As soon 
as she learns who he is, she throws herself into 
the water, and in later versions he passes on 
through life unwedded, and, though boister- 
ously jovial, yet a prey to remorse. 

The very same story occurs as an episode 
about a subordinate personage in the Kalevala 
of the Finns. The brother is an unlucky 
youth of giant strength named KuUervo, over 
whose birth the poet seems intentionally 
obscure, if not contradictory. When the sister 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

learns who he is, she laments the mistake and 
casts herself into the stream. 

Scarcely had the maiden spoken 

When she bounded from the snow-sledge. 

Rushed upon the rolling river. 

To the cataract's commotion. 

To the fiery stream and whirlpool. 

Thus Kullervo's lovely sister 

Hastened to her own destruction. 

To her death by fire and water. 

Found her peace in Tuonela, 

In the sacred stream of Mana. 

(Rune XXXV, Crawfor{ts tramloHon,) 

The account of KuUervo's birth is strangely 
muddled, like those of many other heroes — 
Kalevipoeg, CuchuUaind of Ireland, Gwalchmei 
or Gawayne of Britain, His race is obliterated 
by an envious uncle, Untamo by name ; yet 
later he finds father, mother, brothers and 
other sisters, beside the one who drowned her- 
self. It is as if he found them again in the under- 
world ; but if so, they scorn him still for his 

crime. One reads between the lines that he is 



Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

the son of Untamo, his mother being Untamo's 
niece; he is the child of relatives in a pro- 
hibited degree and as such is fated to the same 
crime. In fact KuUervo, like Sigurd, Kalevi- 
poeg and, as we shall see, Conchobar of Ire- 
land, are variants of the same story, and that 
story is drawn from the life of the cuckoo, the 
bird whose young are brought up, not only 
apart from each other, but, so it was hitherto 
believed, unknown to their parents. 

Singular^ how often this cuckoo trait ap- 
pears in classical mythology ! Take the 
ancestry and descendants of Picus, the Italiot 
god, the woodpecker, which we have been 
lately considering. Janus and Saturn, to 
begin with 1 Janus married his own sister 
Camesa ; he was the old war god, god of the 
year, the "janitor" or "opener" of the year, 
after whom the month of January was named. 
Saturn, a god of agriculture, supposed to have 
come to Italy in Janus*s age, married his own 
sister Rhea and devoured his children by her 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

— a foible explained by the belief that the 
mother cuckoo lays her eggs in another bird's 
nest to hide their offspring from a cannibal 

Picus son of Saturn is an exception ; he 
marries a daughter of Janus named Canens, 
whose name and whose fame for singing in- 
dicate a bird. But here mythology distin- 
guishes. The woodpecker cannot have the 
character of a cuckoo. But when in this 
genealogy we descend to Faunus the son of 
Picus, the cuckoo crime returns. He mar- 
ried his own sister Fauna and was a sun and 
forest god like Pan, bearing indeed a name 
with the same root as Pan. 

The unlucky, awkward character attributed 
to the cuckoo has left a trace in many lan- 
guages. We have seen how gowk and gawk 
come into English from the shorter name for 
the bird; to this we may add old English 
"awke" "awkward" from the same word. 
The hard g must have softened into^, as we 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

find it in Irish and in dialects of German 
like that in the Mark of Brandenburg ; later 
still, even the y sound has disappeared. We 
can thus replace with a simple etymology 
that labored and unconvincing one found in 
the dictionaries. In French again the word 
"gauche" left hand, put M. Littre to his 
trumps. Here is our grayish-brown friend 
again, the gawk, German Gauch, with the 
guttural ch softened down to French utter- 
ance. Hence in the dialect of Craven we 
have gauk-handed for left-handed. This un- 
lucky, because criminal, bird was identified 
with that quarter from which cold winds come, 
or into which the sun plunges and perishes ; it 
was identified with the side turned to the north 
or the west — which came about in this way. 

The early European, who was taught to 
regard the sunrise as the quarter toward which 
to face in prayer to higher beings, found the 
cold-bringing north winds on his left, the 
flower-bringing south winds on his right. 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

And later, if the lucky, favorable ideas at first 
associated with the south and the right hand 
caused him to turn with his face to the north, 
in order to have favorable sunrise on his right 
hand, still, the left would be unlucky, because 
there dies the sun, there dwell the dark gods. 
The notion that cuckoos do not retire to 
the south, but hibernate in hollow trees, 
sprang up from observing several fects and put- 
ting wrong constructions on them. Cuckoos 
do not band together, like swifts, swallows, 
storks and cranes, just before migrating to 
warmer lands; they are stealthy birds and 
after ceasing to call, still lurk about, and then 
are gradually missed from their haunts without 
any action to show what they intend. The 
mystery was solved to the satisfaction of coun- 
try people by the frequent finding of cuckoos 
in fiiU feather in the hollows of old trees, 
especially of willow-trees. What else brought 
them there, except it were to sleep out the 

winter, like flies and many insects ? It was 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

not observed that in all such cases the cuckoo 
did not get out because it could not. In 
other words, it was a pris- 
oner owing to the stupid- 
ity of its parent. 

The mother cuckoo 
prefers sheltered nests of 
other birds for her furtive 
laying, and often cannot 
get into the nest, or is too 
sharply watched by the lit- 
de birds to allow her the 
time. She then lays her 
e^ on the ground, takes 
it delicately in her beak, 
watches the propitious moment and deposits it 
in the nest. Often this nest is in the hollow 
of an old willow and has been chosen by the 
litde birds because of its narrow entrance. This 
is an additional saf^;uard against intruders. In 
her hurry to commit her beguilement Madam 
Cuckoo does not reason that if the entrance 

Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

IS too small for her to enter by, it will be too 
small for the full-fledged young cuckoo to 
issue from. The egg is deposited ; later on 
she returns and removes the eggs of her host 
Foster-father and foster-mother wear out their 
wings and beaks in bringing the young cor- 
morant food; it grows bigger and bigger; 
one fine day it tries to get out of the nest, and 
finds that the hole is too small ! 

This frequent tragedy in bird-life accounts 
for the discovery of dead cuckoos in hollows 
of trees, for the firm belief still cherished by 
rustics in parts of Europe that the cuckoo 
hibernates, and for the further vilification of 
the poor bird, as slothful, slumbering, torpid 
— a view naturally reinforced by the observa- 
tion that the cuckoo seems too lazy to build 
its own nest and rear its own chicks. 

As a matter of fact the European cuckoo 

lays her eggs at such long intervals apart, from 

a week to ten days, that she would have great 

difficulty in rearing a brood. The first chick 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

would certainly kill the others, as they suc- 
cessively appeared, merely by its own weights 
The mother cuckoo is not to be whitewashed 
entirely; but she is aot the heartless volup- 
tuary she has been supposed. She is actively 
on the watch over six or seven young ones 
entrusted to the care of as many nurses, and 
stands by to take charge of a squab which some 
foster-parent of uncommonly sharp understand- 
ing, or uncommonly sharp temper, has thrown 
out of the nest, for the devil's bantling it is ! 

The old English song of spring registers the 
belief that the cuckoo never bothers itself with 
labor (swik) — 

Wei singes thu cuccu, 
Ne swik thou naver nu. 
Sing cuccuy cuccu — 

and Middleton has left on record the con- 
tempt of Englishmen for Welshmen, or 
perhaps Frenchmen, in the phrase "Welsh 
ambassador " as applied to the cuckoo, either 
because Welshmen came down in spring from 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

the hills of Wales during the months of the 
cuckoo's appearance to raid or to work in 
the fields, or because under "Welsh" we are to 
understand French and foreigners generally, 
and the cuckoo was observed reaching Great 
Britain from France. Among the famous 
fools in Great Britain are cited the "cuckoo- 
penners" of Somerset, who believed they could 
prolong the summer by caging cuckoos. 

The lazy trait of the cuckoo appears very 
strongly expressed in the Esthonian hero, 
Kalev's boy. He is so abnormally lazy that 
at times he will not even rouse himself when 
invaders from the north — the steel-clad hosts 
with icicles for spears — fall upon and devas- 
tate Esthland. So with KuUervo. That Fin- 
nish oaf and luckless one, his laziness as well 
as his bird origin, appear in a Finnish fairy- 
tale related of a youth of enormous power and 
ruinous strength. He is not called KuUervo, 
but Munnapoika, which means the egg's boy, 
the Son of the Egg. 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

In Wales, too, we have the cuckoo traits in 
the family of King Arthur, who in Mallory's 
tales was by no means the chaste monarch 
Tennyson makes him. King Arthur's parent- 
age was unknown. One day a handsome queen 
arrives from the Orkneys ; she is the wife of 
King Lot. King Arthur succumbs to her 
charms. Two children are born to them, 
Gwalchmei, who becomes Gawayne or Gauvain 
in the later tales, and Modred, who destroys 
Arthur and his knights. Merlin foretells to 
Arthur that this shall be his fate and the reason 
given is the startling one — that the wife of 
King Lot is no other than Arthur's sister ! The 
cuckoo crime has occurred, because cuckoos 
cannot rfecognize their own brothers and sisters. 

Whatever " Modred " may mean, we can 
now explain the name of Gwalchmei. Accord- 
ing to Professor J. Rhys, Gwalchmei means the 
" Hawk of May " ; but he seems not to under- 
stand why Gawayne should be so termed. 
Yet for a cuckoo god such a term is thoroughly 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

a Welsh, or, for the matter of that, Scandi- 
navian circumlocution for the typical bird of 
May, the cuckoo. The cuckoo is slightly 
hawk-like in appearance, especially when on 
the wing; so that there has always been a 
widespread idea in Europe that cuckoos turn 
to hawks in August. Now the cuckoo clew 
here given makes things clear. It was said 
of Gwalchmei the Good that his strength in- 
creased till midday and decreased till sunset; 
the idea seems borrowed from the sun ; but it 
may allude to the ceasing of the cuckoo's call 
in midsummer. 

How persistent the cuckoo idea was in 
Greece and Italy is seen from the forbidden 
relationship of the gods already mentioned. 
From Pausanias we learn that, in order to 
obtain his sister Hera for his wife, Zeus turned 
himself into a cuckoo and flew near Hera, 
who caught and played with him. And while 
Pausanias protests that he does not believe 

such tales, he describes a statue of Hera in the 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

Heraion, not far from Mykenai, and notes that 
she carries in one hand a sceptre on which 
perches a cuckoo, in memory of the stratagem 
of Zeus. Such is the power of religion ! Acts 
reprobated by the Greeks were pubHcly insisted 
upon, dwelt upon in their monuments, merely 
because the remote, barbarous past had mar- 
velled at the strange acts of birds and made 
them their gods. 

TheCbuKide in Ireland ftPersia«» 


IT was observed by the explorers of South 
America that certain Indian tribes had a 
most singular custom, one which has hitherto, 
failed to be explained. When a child was 
born to an Indian of note, the father was 
put to bed and tended with as much care as 
if he were the mother. This went so far that 
the mother was neglected, whilst her lord 
and master assumed all the airs of the real 
sufferer. Certain Tupi tribes still practise this 
custom and the startling fact has since been 
observed that the odd habit once existed among 
the Basques of Spain. It is less generally 

Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

known that the couvade, or brooding, existed 
among the ancient inhabitants of Ireland, where 
I have discovered it through the old legends. 
Traces of the same thing, as I shall show, 
exist in Persia also among the stories of the 
Shah Nameh, 

The couvade has been sought to be ex- 
plained through psychology, as if it were 
a superstitious belief in the transfer of the 
mother's identity to that of the father; but 
for the most part writers have been content 
to chronicle the extraordinary freak without 
looking for more obvious reasons close at 
hand, namely, in the keen observation of the 
habits of birds on the part of primitive men 
and in consequence a childlike imitation on 
their part of the actions of birds. 

The cuckoo is one of those birds which 
deserve the special protection of men ; because 
it not only does no harm to crops, but spends 
its entire time, unbothered by family cares, in 
reducing the foes of agriculture and forestry. 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

It is a bird that devours vast quantities of 
hairy caterpillars, which are rejected by most 
insect-eating creatures. It may be doubted, 
however, whether this good trait had much 
to do with the admiration for the cuckoo 
among early men. 

In Ireland, as in Finland and Esthland, 
there were cuckoo demigods. They are not 
only of preternatural strength and agility, but 
subject to periods of apathy, attributed either 
to fairy blight, or — what tells the story of the 
meaning of these things the plainest — the 
"couvade." In the discovery of the im- 
portance of the bird gods in the eyes of early 
peoples and in the connection of the " couvade " 
with demigods and heroes, clearly birdlike in 
their main traits, we have the long-sought 
clew to the mystery. We may guess that it 
began with the observation that male birds 
assisted in the brooding of the eggs. After 
a stage in which the father was treated like 
the mother before the birth, it came to the 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

stage in which we find it, namely, treatment 
of the father like the mother after the birth 
in connection mth festivities in honor of the 
little stranger. 

Yet, one may say, the cuckoo does not 
brood its eggs. Here the kindly traits of 
most birds became blended with the unnatural 
conduct of cuckoos, and were applied to the 
same bird god, whom we find as a hero in 
the old ballads. 

The Irish have regarded Fion and Cuchul- 
laind as historical characters, which is not sur- 
prising, when one sees the way in which the 
old Irish historians provided them with plausi- 
ble ancestors and dates. But those whom dates 
would not convince are still loath to give up 
the actuality of heroes about whom so much 
that is possible to man has been handed down, 
and relegate them, as mere abstractions, to the 
status of survivals from old gods. It is clear, 
however, that the cycle of stories about Fion 
and Oisin — the Ossianic heroes, as Macpher- 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

son called them — and the cycle of stories about 
Conchobar and CuchuUaind are at bottom the 
same; composed at different periods, they 
naturally show great variations. The Fion 
cycle is more chivalrous, less crammed with 
unnecessary bloodshed ; while that of Cuchul- ^ 

kind is wilder and more savage. In the Fion 
cycle, again, the traits of Diarmuid are some- 
what like those of CuchuUaind. We have 
something like the same distinction in the 
Kalevala between Vainamoinen and Lemmin- 
kainen. Old Vaino, the minstrel, is more the 
savior and helper of his people ; Lemmin- 
kainen, the loose lover, is a headstrong young 
fighter and magician, like CuchuUaind. 

Not only does CuchuUaind bear obvious in 
his name his origin as a cuckoo god, but his 
birth, exploits and death are those of a cuckoo. 
Yet the Irish labored to avoid the plain in- 
ference from the sound of his name, and a 
legend grew up to help them. The boy was 

originally Setanta by name, said they, and 



Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

Cuchullaind was a nickname obtained after 
this wise: One night when he followed his 
" uncle " Conchobar to the house of Culann, 
a smith, the gates were locked and a ferocious 
dog lay in watch. The boy killed the hound 
out of hand, as Herakles overcame Cerberus, 
and Kalevipoeg, the watchdog of hell ; and 
when the smith lamented his loss, Setanta said 
" I will be your cu (dog) until another is 
grown large enough to guard your house," 
whence Setanta was called Cuchullaind, hound 
of Culann. 

The legend is the result of a forgetting or 
intentional ignoring of the cuckoo, perhaps 
owing to its evil repute, and also of the high 
opinion the Irish had of dogs, which they bred 
very well and for which they were famous long 
ago. Cu, hound, was an honor-name for a 
champion. The name Setanta may be ex- 
plained through the Finnish, like many names 
in Ireland for divisions and streams. It is 
evident from such parallels that, before the 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

Kelts, the population was of a stock similar to 
Esthonian, Finnish, etc. Now Setanta may be 
explained by Finnish for uncle, seta (genitive 
-dan) and may have meant " son of his uncle " 
for reasons about to be explained. But the 
curious word CuchuUaind is explained by 
Esthonian Kukkulind "cuckoo bird." With- 
out doubt he is a survival of a bird god of the 
Finnic tribes in Ireland conquered by the Kelts. 
The word "lint" for bird remains in the Suf- 
folk dialect of England in lint-white, a local 
name for the lark. 

The accepted description of CuchuUaind's 
birth shows his bird origin very clearly ; no 
other cuckoo demigod is so plainly a bird. 
His mother was Dechtire, who was sister of 
King Conchobar of Ulster and also his char- 
ioteer. One legend says that there were griev- 
ous scandals regarding Conchobar and his 
car-driving sister. But a more veiled account 
is as follows : One day Dechtire and her maids 
disappear and soon after news is brought to 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

Conchobar that wonderful birds with gold 
chains about their necks have been seen in 
the land. He sets out to hunt them, is led 
to a palace he has never seen before, where 
is a beautiful woman with attendant maids, 
whom he does not recognize. He demands 
that she shall be his wife, but she says she is 
about to become a mother; and that same 
night Setanta or CuchuUaind is born, with 
features like Conchobar! 

Throughout his career this child of doubtful 
origin shows the cuckoo or bird characteristics, 
not once or twice, but a dozen times. The 
dates of his taking arms, his first adventure 
and his death confirm it, if we put weeks for 
years in the account we receive. Thus, at seven 
weeks, the end of May or beginning of June, a 
young cuckoo is fledge : at seven years young 
Setanta induced his "uncle" to grant him 
weapons and harness, or, as the men of the later 
Middle Ages would say, he was made a knight. 
At seventeen weeks, the end of July or begin- 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

ning of August, the cuckoo has deserted its 

foster-parents : at seventeen years Setanta or 

Cuchullaind defended Ulster single-handed 

against an army. At twenty-seven weeks, or 

September, the cuckoo disappears into hollow 

trees, or is turned to a 

hawk ; at twenty-seven 

years Cuchull^nd was 

slain by the magic of the 

sons of Cailledn. 

His origin is as mys- 
terious and veiledly crimi- 
nal as that of Arthur in Wales or of Kullervo 
in the Kalevala. Like Kalevipo^, who was 
born of Linda, the bird, long after his re- 
puted fether Kalev's death, and took the 
heritage from his elder brothers by beating 
them at hurling the stone, Cuchullaind thrashes 
and completely drives off fifty boy-princes in 
the royal school to which he comes at a tender 
{^e. These feats are echoes of the young 
cuckoo's exploits in ridding the nest of such 

Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

foster-brothers as may have escaped the vigi- 
lance of Madam Cuckoo and grown up to be 
rivals for food and the attention of his foster- 

In looseness of morals CuchuUaind almost 
equals Lemminkainen, who, as we have seen, 
was a god of love. Although he has a serious 
love affair and a wife, yet, whilst he is be- 
trothed to the woman he afterward marries, he 
has a second love affair in Scotland. More- 
over he was said to have a taboo or prohibition 
laid on him not to wed; and cuckoos were 
falsely thought to have no regular mate. 

In the stress of single combat CuchuUaind 
showed his bird traits with singular clearness. 
He had a very disagreeable way of changing in 
size, becoming diastharthay as a bird ruffles up 
its feathers in fighting and appears twice its 
normal size. He leapt in the heat of combat 
on to the rim of his opponent's shield. In his 
fight with the giant GoU he soared up and 
alighted on the shield of GoU ^^ like any bird 
7 97 

Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

of the air " says the story. In that with Eocho 
the Blue-Green, CuchuUaind is thrice blown 
off Eocho's shield into the sea before he is able 
to overcome that huge monster. The same 
cuckoo will, if possible, hold the same district 
year after year and challenge all comers. The 
combat that CuchuUaind undertakes for Ulster 
is the war that a cuckoo makes against rivals 
who invade the district the bird has seized 
as its own. 

In CuchuUaind's trip to Scotland to learn 
the military art from Scatach " the Shadowy," 
an Amazon who kept a military school, we 
have the annual disappearance of cuckoos, no 
very good long-distance fliers, across the Irish 
Sea where it is narrowest. He lands on Can- 
tire, and, proceeding to the school, has a love 
adventure with Aoife, the daughter of Scatach, 
who bears him Cpnlaech, but after he has re- 
turned to Ireland. Like Oidipous, and like 
the hero Sohrab of Persia, Conlaech has never 

seen his father ; so the son when he comes of 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

age goes to Ireland and fights with his father, 
because it was supposed that neither male nor 
female cuckoo took any heed of their off- 
spring and therefore the latter must approach 
its real parents as a total stranger. 

Another, more poetic, tale of CuchuUaind 
represents the cuckoo as the bringer of spring. 
Along with other heroes he goes to the Isle 
of Man — an island named after Mananan of 
the Sea, a god of the under-world of waters, 
like Mana in the Kalevala — and storms a 
city in which dwells the beautiful Blathmaid 
"Blossom." He loves Blathmaid and she 
loves him, but King Curoi, a wizard of Kerry> 
takes her from him as his share in the spoils 
— as Agamemnon took Briseis away from 
Achilleus — and carries her off to his for- 
tress in the southwest of Ireland, leaving 
CuchuUaind bound and shorn of his long 

The lovers communicate ; the sign for 
CuchuUaind to attack the fortress and carry 

99 • • - . 

" ^ - " •• 

Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

off Blathmaid is given by the latter, who 
pours milk into the stream that passes the 
castle. The plot succeeds and Curoi is killed, 
while CuchuUaind goes off with Blossom as if 
he had no wife to grieve over his fickleness. 
In this fine allegory Curoi is winter, Blathmaid 
the flowers of spring and CuchuUaind the bird 
whose notes chase winter off and deliver the 
flowers from their icy bondage. Perhaps the 
milk in the stream is the ice floating down in 
sign of the approaching summer. 

In his book on the poetry of the Finns the 
Italian writer Comparetti lays great stress on 
the low form of wizardry and magic shown by 
the contests of Vainamoinen with Youkahai- 
nen, and the preference of Lemminkainen as 
well as Vainamoinen for conjuring over battle. 
But the same traits appear in CuchuUaind. 
On his voyage to Scotland he uses " sea 
magic" like a Finnish wizard; in his contest 
with Eocho Rond, as related in the " Feast of 
Bricriu " in which, like the Finnish conjurers, 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

the prize is the hand of a maiden, Cuchullaind 
and Eocho Rond use magic by turns in order 
to ward off each other's weapons. 

Cuchullaind is particularly expert with the 
old weapon to bring down birds — with the 
sling, David's weapon, the natural arm of 
the shepherd. When proceeding against Ailill, 
the fairy king of Connaught, just to give him 
a taste of his quality, as the Irish say, he killed 
with a cast from his sling a bird that was sit- 
ting on AililFs shoulder. A very curious 
weapon called the gaebolg, which was cast 
with the foot along the surface of the water, 
was the trump card of Cuchullaind when en- 
gaged in the memorable struggle at the ford 
with his old schoolmate and friend. In his 
fight with the stranger who is his son he also 
used the gaebolg. It is evidently a peculiar 
contrivance to kill waterfowl similar to fowl- 
ing spears used by Eskimos and Lapps. The 
Irish legend particularly states that it came 
** from the eastern parts of the world," which 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

usually means the Baltic, when the actual 
direction is told. In Trinity College, Dublin, 
is an Irish treatise on bird auguries which, so 
far as I know, has not been translated. 

Another bird trait, which he shares with 
Vaino and other heroes of the Finns and 
Esths, is that of understanding the speech of 
birds ; it is his own language ! He is expert 
in capturing birds. In one story he hits with 
his sling two magic birds that turn into Liban 
and Fand, daughters or wives of Mananan of 
the Sea, who have fallen in love with him, and in 
consequence drops into a stupor, becomes half 
crazy and otherwise shows that the hibernating 
cuckoo is the root of the story. 

In fact we must regard CuchuUaind as the 
cuckoo god pre-eminent, a typical descendant 
in myth and legend from a deity whose traces 
are found in nearly every part of the world. 

That this is not an extravagant statement 
appears when we examine the epic of the 
Persians, the Shah Nameh, in which the old 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

bird gods are humanized as thoroughly as they 
have been in Ireland's legendry. The hero 
Sahm exposes his son Zal, when first born, on 
the rocks of the Elburz 
mountains, where the Si- 
mui^, a fabulous, griffin- 
like bird, finds and fos- 
ters him. Sahm sees Zal 
standing in the Simula's 
nest and repents and 
takes him back, when 
he, or rather the young 
cuckoo, is grown. Zal 
marries Roodabeh and 

calls the Simurg to her help when she is about 
to be a mother. When I treat of the eagle the 
reason for this office of the Simurg will appear. 
Kai Kaus, the Persian king of the same 
mythical period, makes a campaign against 
the deevs, or powers of darkness and winter, 
whose king, the White Giant, overcomes the 
invaders by magic and reduces them to that 

Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

impotent condition we meet so often in Ire- 
land, where Conch obar or Fion is the victim, 
or in Finland, where it is Lemminkainen or 
Youkahainen. Rustem, the son of the Zal 
who was nurtured by the Simurg, comes to 
the assistance of his king and his heroes 
and slays the White Deev, as CuchuUaind 
rescues Conchobar or Fion. Now the reason 
why the White Deev temporarily overcomes 
the Persian king and heroes is the same 
reason found in Ireland for the lethargy that 
befalls Conchobar and the heroes of Ulster. 
It is the woman's helplessness ; it is the cou- 
vade ! I suspect the whole Kai dynasty of 
Persia were bird heroes. Did not Kai Kaus 
attach eagles to a car and attempt to reach 
heaven by their aid ? 

But much earlier bird-god literature existed 
on the Euphrates among the Akkads. The 
** sin of the god Zu " was the stealing of some 
talisman from the high gods Anu, Bel and 

Rimmon, perhaps the sun itself, or maybe 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

some wonder-working thing like the Kalevalan 
Sampo ; for the tablets are too broken to per- 
ceive clearly v^hat it was. His bird character 
appears in a fragment concerning a certain god 
Lugal-turda, who, like KuUervo and other 
cuckoo heroes, had neither father nor mother : 

A turban be placed on his head 

When from the nest of the god Zu he came, 

and again in a phrase in the annals of Assur- 
nazir-pal, " like the divine Zu bird upon them 
darted." The late George Smith very acutely 
likened the Zu bird to the eagle or the wood- 
pecker as they appear in the folk-lore of 
Europe. As to Lugal-turda, whom I suspect 
to have been the cuckoo, he translated : 

No mother gave him life. 

No father with him associated. 

No noble knew him ; 

Of the resolution of his heart, the resolution he changed not. 

In his own heart the resolution he kept ; 

Into the likeness of a bird was he transformed. 

Into the likeness of the divine Zu bird was he transformed. 

Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

But to return to the Shah Nameh: other 
cuckoo and bird traits appear in the life of 
Rustem, the child of Zal and Roodabeh. He 
is not exposed or put away to foster, but he 
has exactly Cuchullaind's adventures. During 
a raid into Turan, Rustem loves Tehmineh, 
and in parting tells her to send the son she may 
bear into Persia to him. Sohrab their son 
invades Persia — as Conlaech invades Ireland 
— and after overcoming everybody else, suc- 
cumbs to his unknown but invincible father. 
Thus we have the same story, or fragments 
of the same story, in Italy — Janus, Saturn, 
Faunus; in Persia, with Sahm, Zal, Rustem 
and Sohrab ; in Wales, with Arthur and his 
" nephew " or son Modred ; in Ireland, with 
Conchobar, CuchuUaind and Conlaech ; in 
Scandinavia, with Sigurd and his sister ; in 
Esthland, with the Finnish magician and Kale- 
vipoeg and the island maid; and in Finland, 
with Untamo, Kullervo and the latter's sister. 

We shall presently see it in Greece also, but 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

in a far completer state than the story of 
Tereus and Philomela already mentioned in 
the chapter on the woodpecker. 

In Ireland it is not CuchuUaind alone who 
is a cuckoo god made man ; the cuckoo shows 
in his ancestry. We have seen how his uncle, 
who was also his father, has the cuckoo trait. 
Now that same parent Conchobar robs his own 
stepfather of his kingdom, as the young cuckoo 
was thought to devour its foster-father. His 
wife Meave elopes from him with another 
chief, as the female cuckoo was supposed to 
be inconstant ; and their daughter pursues 
the same course with regard to her husband. 
To cap the climax, in an aberration of mind, 
Conchobar marries his own mother Nessa and 
has a son by her, Cormac Conlingeas by name, 
a famous warrior in his day! 

These ghastly domestic tragedies can now 
be understood as poetic changes and exag- 
gerations in old legends, based on observation 
of cuckoos, their actual deeds and attributed 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

moral traits. I venture to say that in almost 
every legend in which we find a father fighting 
with a son whom he does not recognize one 
may detect from other traits that it is based on 
a cuckoo plot, the root of which is the sin- 
gular habit of the female cuckoo in Europe, 
Asia and Africa of causing other birds to hatch 
her eggs. Such are not only the Sohrab- 
Rustem combats and the CuchuUaind-Con- 
laech, but the Russian combat of Ilya of 
Murom with his son Falcon, and the early 
fragmentary German tale of Hildebrand fight- 
ing with his son Hadubrand — nay, the epi- 
sode in classical mythology of Saturn overcome 
by his son Jupiter. 

Hitherto no satisfactory explanation has 
been given for the remarkable recurrence of 
marriages between brother and sister in the 
mythology and legends of many countries: 
such as Saturn with Rhea, Zeus with Hera — 
divine marriages which were undoubtedly taken 

as precedents for the historical marriages of 

1 08 

Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

the same sort in royal houses, such as that of 
Atossa of Persia and the Ptolemies of Egypt* 
Surely it is worth while to discover that these 
offensive features resolve themselves into 
unions that might be possible in a family of 
eccentric birds ! 

The evil imagined in the cuckoo has left its 
trace in the vulgar speech of Germany. Hoi' 
dich der Kuckuck ! Das weiss der Kuckuck ! 
Der Kuckuck hat ihn hergebracht — " The 
deuce take you ! The Old Boy knows ! The 
devil must have brought him ! " — show that 
like other pagan gods the cuckoo god was 
degraded to a devil. The hoopoe is called the 
cuckoo's sexton or lackey, and the wryneck the 
cuckoo's maiden, perhaps because the ancients 
fancied that the bird was twisting its head 
round to see its admired one, the cuckoo. 

The^blacker, more criminal idea of the 
cuckoo has found its way into the great 
dramas of the world with Oidipous — " Swell- 
foot the Tyrant " — by Sophocles. The 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

swollen foot seems an echo of the feathered 
legs of the cuckoo. The crimes of Oidipous 
consisted of his slaying the ^ther^ who, be- 
cause of a menacing prophecy, had sent him 
away, and of his marriage to his own mother. 
His fete includes the crime of Conchobar of 
Ireland, who married his mother, and KuUervo 
of Finland, who killed his fether-uncle, perhaps, 
also, Kalevipoeg of Esthland, if we regard the 
Finnish magician as his real fether. When 
the mother of Oidipous discovers the situarion, 
she kills herself, just as Aino 
K drowns herself because of 
3 Vaino, and the sisters of Kul- 
f lervo and Kalevipoeg throw 
themselves into the water. 
In connection with Oidipous we find the 
sphinx, who puts each aspirant to the kingship 
a question he cannot solve and kills him when 
his ignorance is shown. Pausanias explains 
that the sphinx, that four-footed creature with 
head and breasts of a woman, was the daughter 

Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

of Laius, the father of Oidipous. Her puzzle 
was a family question that no one who was not 
truly a son of Laius could answer ; thus she 
kept false pretenders from the throne. 

Having now the clew in the cuckoo to the 
Laius-Jocasta-Oidipous legend, the question 
arises what the sphinx might be. I think it 
safe to say that the sphinx is a Greek em- 
broidery upon the owl, her figure having been 
suggested by the winged lions of the Euphrates 
valley, familiar not only to Greek travellers, 
but to all who purchased from the Phoenician 
merchants those gold and copper vessels carved 
with winged beasts which were made in Asia. 
We get thus an explanation of the sphinxes 
on the helmet of the great statue of Pallas 
Athene in the Parthenon described by Pau- 
sanias. They were merely more elegant and 
artistic forms of the homely owl, the bird of 
Minerva, whose history I shall try to trace 
in the following chapter. 

The Oidipous story entire has been found in 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

Finland, but modernized. Two magicians who 
can read the future stay the night at a farm- 
house where the wife is about to become a 
mother. They prophesy that the child will be 
a boy who will kill his father and marry his 
mother. It is a boy; and the father is for 
killing him, but at the mother's prayer he 
binds the baby to a plank and sets it adrift 
on the river. The plank goes ashore near an 
abbey ; the child is reared by the monks and 
takes a place as farm hand with his own father. 
He is ordered to watch a field of turnips at 
night and kill any thieves ; his fkther forgets 
his own order, goes out at night to gather 
turnips and is killed. In time the widow 
marries the farm hand, and one day, when the 
young husband is bathing, discovers by a birth- 
mark what she has done. 

Many and most curious are the analogies 
between the myths and the names of Ireland 
on the one hand, Finland and Esthland on the 
other. The name of the Shannon can be 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

explained as '^ dark-blue " from an Esthonian 
word. Tara's hill in Meath with its royal 
town, said to have been there in Saint Patrick's 
day, is strangely like Taara's hill in Esthland, 
where Kalev's son founded a city over the 
tomb of his reputed father. The Tuatha de 
Danann, that people of the misty Druidical 
Irish past, famous for their knowledge of 
metal- and magic-making, receive a lurid light 
from the under-world when considered to 
mean " Folk of the Dark Gods " not « Folk 
of the Two Dananns.*' They are the Tonn, 
Tonni of the Esthonians, spirits whose im- 
ages were used in witchcraft, the Tonndi of 
the Finns, kobolds and devils, denizens of 
Tuonela the under-world. But their pleasant 
traits show that they escaped the damning of 
Christian teachers, who always sought to de- 
grade the heathen upper gods to evil spirits 
and the gods of the under-world to the 
depths of brimstone and hell-fire. And the 
Fir-bolgs, another mysterious race, over whose 
s 113 

Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

origin and meaning the Irish have allowed 
their fancy the widest range, may find their 
analogy through the Finnish polkea, to over- 
throw, oppress — the meaning being the op- 
pressed tribes (palkkamies) namely the early 
Finnic tribes subjugated and in part driven 
westward into Connaught by their Keltic con- 
querors. In Irish the pawns in chess, which 
represent the lowest men in the social order, 
are called ferbolg, as if one said serfs. And 
when the Fir-bolgs are asked to move from 
the west into Ulster the old Finnic hero 
CuchuUaind takes them under his protection. 
But they are badly treated and fly to Con- 
naught once more. 

There is a strong parallel between Lemmin- 
kainen or Ahti, god of the waters — who is the 
male god of love beside Lemmetar the Finn- 
ish Aphrodite — and Fion of Ireland, at least 
so far as certain of their exploits are concerned ; 
in others it is CuchuUaind who furnishes the 

analogies. Fion and Lemminkainen are both 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

deserted by their wives. One day Fion meets 
a beautiful woman who is weeping for her ring 
which has fallen into a deep lake ; gallantly he 
dives for it, but when he brings it up he is an 
old man, withered and old like Vaino. Lem- 
minkainen tries for the hand of one of Louhi's 
daughters — Louhi of Pohjola, the Hag of the 
North. But he comes off worse than Fion. 
He goes to Hades at the request of Louhi, is 
killed and his body cut to pieces, like that of 
Osiris of Egypt. Fion is restored to his own 
shape and Lemminkainen's mother gathers up 
his scattered members and brings him back 
to life. Both derive from the cuckoo, which 
has. lost its life or its youth in autumn, but 
returns in spring. 

These parallels are such as to exclude the 
idea that they are direct transplantations from 
Finland to Ireland, or from Ireland to Fin- 
land, since they vary from each other in too 
many particulars. They testify to a common 
origin which lies so very far back that we must 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

believe them survivals from a common stock, 
belonging to a race whose language and ideas 
at one time ruled Europe, and whose dialects, 
where they happened to survive, differed at 
that remote epoch comparatively little the one 
from the other. Fion's cuckoo traits are seen 
in the adventure of Oisin's captivity in a cave. 
Oisin the son of Fion is caught by fairies in 
a cave ; but he snips off a piece from the shaft 
of his spear each day and casts it into a stream. 
Fion, searching for his boy, sees the chip and 
rescues him. This is the cuckoo reared in a 
nest from which it cannot escape. 

The Slavic nations, with whom in the past 
as in the present Finns and Esths have been 
in closest contact, were great favorers of the 
cuckoo. The Poles called him Zezula; in 
heathen times they had a goddess Zywie 
with a temple on Mount Zywiec, where they 
prayed for health and long life. It recalls 
the cuckoo-mount near Mases in Corinth 
with its temple to Zeus, erected because Zeus 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

turned himself there into a cuckoo. This 

goddess was thought to have turned herself 

in like fashion into a cuckoo. When the 

sound of the cuckoo call first strikes your ear 

in spring, or even first in the morning, you 

must have some gold or silver in your pocket, 

if you hope to be rich for the rest of the year. 

If you hear the call whilst hungry, you will 

suffer for the year from a superabundance of 

the "best sauce.*' 

The latter idea gave rise to a habit which 

has hygienic value, namely, that of always 

eating a mouthful before going out in the 

morning; it is prettily expressed by a word 

in Kalevipoeg, Canto XI, line 3, where linnu- 

pete is found. Before he sets out to wade 

across Lake Peipus, lazy giant, Kalev's boy 

takes a linnupete. Linnu, lind, means bird, 

pete deceit; linnupete means the bird deceiver; 

something that defeats the magic of birds. 

Wiedemann explains this word as : " Breakfast, 

which is taken, through superstition, in spring 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

before going out, in order not to hear the 
cuckoo on an empty stomach." Perhaps this 
testifies more powerfully than the legends of 
cuckoo heroes to the vast background of 
belief in bird magic and bird prophecy, a faint 
sketch of which I am trying to trace. 

The Egyptians, too, had their stories which 
point to the cuckoo as their visible starting- 
point. There is that of Osiris and his sister 
Isis, whose son was the hawk Horns. Osiris 
is cut to pieces like Lemminkainen, and his 
scattered limbs are found and collected by 
his sister-wife, as Lemminkainen's by his 

"It is this, the beneficent, the avenger of 
her brother " says the Hymn to Osiris trans- 
lated from the stele in the Bibliotheque Na- 
tionale by M. Chabas ; " she unrepiningly 
sought him : she went the round of the world 
lamenting him ; she stopped not till she found 
him. She shadowed with her wings ; her wings 

caused wind, making the invocation of her 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

brother's burial ; she raised the remains of the 
god of the resting heart: she extracted his 
essence : she had a child^ she suckled the baby 
in secret ; none knew where that happened. 
The arm of the child has become strong in the 
great dwelling of Seb." 

Here Horus is the returning spring, the son 
of the cuckoo that turns into a hawk, the 
cuckoo whose death is as mysterious as his 

A very curious story called " The Tale of 

Setnau " seems to contain the cuckoo myth in 

secondary form, that of the folk-tale, where 

the crime of marriage between brother and 

sister is made to entail disaster. So far as we 

can see the marriage of Isis and Osiris did not 

occasion the mutilation of the latter. But the 

tale of Setnau found in a papyrus begins with 

an enforced marriage between Ptah-Nefer-Ka 

and his sister Ahura, although each desires to 

marry some one else. Soon are developed the 

avenging fates ! The brother insists on raising 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

a book of mag^c from the bottom of the sea ; 
whereupon, first their child Merhu, then Ahura, 
and finally Ptah-Nefer-Ka, plunge into the Nile 
and are drowned. Egypt, we remember, is 
the land where the royal family was condemned 
to the closest interbreeding, even as late as the 
Ptolem^c line. Such tales bear out the belief 
that the bird heads seen on the sceptres of the 
gods in Egyptian mural inscriptions are heads 
of cuckoos. 

Foon the^Feaeoefc-*- 


THE peacock " with his aungelis clothis 
bryghte " is a synonym for brainless- 
ness ; the small size of its head, its harsh voice 
and the ugliness of its l^s have been con- 
trasted in witty antithesis with the extraordi- 

Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

nary splendor of its crest, neck and long wing 
coverts, and the haughtiness of its demeanor. 
Those who have not seen the cock bird mak- 
ing love to the demure hen have missed one 
of the most curious sights. After strutting 
for some time with his fan of gorgeous plumes 
upright, he will approach his partner, and, 
with a trembling in every plume well cal- 
culated to bring each glister and glint of 
color into play, and at the same time to pro- 
duce a gentle humming sound, he will gradu- 
ally curve the long feathers forward over 
himself and her, until the two stand in a 
green-gold bower of beauty. 

Whether it was merely the superbness of 
the feathers of the peacock, or also the fact 
that the bird gives its calls before rain, and 
in its native wilds issues a hoarse warning of 
the presence of its foe, the tiger — at any rate 
in its wild and half-tamed state in Ceylon 
and South India it has always been a magic 
bird, protected from extinction by the super- 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

stition that to kill it was to offend a god. 
Doubtless in earlier days and in its simpler 
form this belief considered the peafowl as 
the embodiment of some god of the forest 
whose resentment it were wise not to rouse. 
For several centuries at least it has been the 
special companion of Subhramanya, a son of 

From Ceylon to Lapland seems a far cry, 
but there are many instances of analogies be- 
tween far separated ideas and things which 
would seem improbable to us, if they were 
not so familiar. Families in Scandinavia and 
England bear the lion in their crests or coats ; 
yet the lion is not known to have penetrated 
Europe or central Asia. I do not mean to 
say that the peacock reached Lapland as a 
bird god or the animal emblem of a god ; yet, 
being transportable, it did reach Europe, not- 
withstanding the fact that it is not a native 
and reached it to become the emblem of 
various deities. 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

The best known of these is Juno or Hera, 
whom we have already spoken of as cuckoo- 
like in her relation to Zeus. Her proud 
chariot is drawn by peacocks, birds whose 
introduction into Greece from India is as- 
cribed to Alexander the Great, though their 
attribution to Hera shows that they must have 
been highly prized long before. Indeed Solo- 
mon, that ruler of the demons and birds as 
Mohammedans know him, imported peacocks 
from India. If we place Solomon about 950 
before Christ, the date is not far removed from 
that at which, according to Terrien de la 
Couperie, the Chinese first saw the Indian 
bird. What store the Chinese set by its 
feather we all know; its presence in a cap sig- 
nifies a high rank. Europe must have had 
plenty of time in which to have made certain 
changes of fashion in the birds attached to cer- 
tain deities before the Greeks arrived in 
Greece, and, learning the use of the alphabet 

from the Phoenicians, set down the attributes 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

of the various gods in writing for the benefit 
of Europe in after ages. 

It is a characteristic of folk-tales and ballads 
by the people's bards to ring the changes on 
some few notes, to revamp the same plot, re- 
tell with superficial variations the same story. 
In the Finnish legends the doings of Vaino, 
the old and the sage, of Ilma- 
rinen, the inventive and firm- 
spirited, of Lemminkainen and 
Youkahainen, the young and 
flighty, often overlap, so that 
it is plain they are but variations on one origi- 
nal godhead. Vaino has won the right to the 
hand of Youkahainen's sister Aino by van- 
quishing that young upstart of a Druid in 
wizardry ; but Aino shows her relationship to 
the various luckless sisters of cuckoo gods 
by drowning herself rather than marry him. 
In the ballads as we have them the reason is 
no longer a discovery of unlawful closeness of 
blood; it is incompatibility of age. We have 

Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

in the first chapter noticed Aino after she 
suffered a sea change; here she is about to 
take the leap. 

The violence of Aino's grief betrays the fact 
that something worse than merely marriage 
with an old man lies behind her words. She 
is the same person as Syrinx, the nymph who 
flees from Pan and turns to a reed rather than 
yield to his embraces. Vaino's bride exclaims : 

Better had it been for Aino 
Had she never seen the sunlight. 
Or if bom had died an infant. 
Had not lived to be a maiden 
In these days of sin and sorrow 
Underneath a star so luckless ! 
Needed then but little linen. 
Needed but a little coffin 
And a grave of smallest measure. 

As Aino leaps into the water she addresses 
her sister in words that bring the Finnish 
nymph very close to Syrinx of Arcadia : 

Sister dear, I sought the sea-side. 
There to sport among the billows. 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

With the stone of many colors 

Sank poor Aino to the bottom 

Of the deep and boundless blue-sea. 

Like a pretty song-bird perished. 

Never come to lave thine eyelids 

In this rolling wave and seafoam. 

Never during all thy lifetime. 

As thou lovest sister Aino. 

All the waters in the blue-sea. 

All the fish that swim these waters. 

Shall be Aino*s flesh forever ; 

All the willows on the seaside 

Shall be Aino*s ribs hereafter ; 

All the seagrass on the margin 

Will have grown from Aino's tresses. 

(ICalevala, Rune IV, Crawfonfs translation,) 

The separation of Vaino from Lemmin- 

kainen and Ilmarinen, and the separation of 

all three from Pikker must be very ancient ; 

for as Pikker, the Finnish god of thunder, 

leads back to Italy and discovers Picus, so 

Vaino leads thither and discovers Faunus. 

But Faunus is no other than Pan of the old 

Arcadians in Greece. Vaino, Faunus and Pan 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

have a Keltic namesake and parallel in Fion 
of Ireland, whose troops were the Fianna or 
Fenians. If the latter are not given the hairy 
legs and horns of the Pans^ Panisci, Fauni, 
they were nevertheless creatures of the woods 
who lived all summer in the open and only 
quartered themselves in winter on the country 

The variation of P into F, of F into V or 
Wy is a matter of little moment ; these names 
are the same, though they appear so far apart 
and in so many differing tongues. What was 
formerly called Finntraighe in Ireland is now 
Ventry. The island of Ventotene, west of 
Naples, is the ancient Pandataria. The name 
of Pan was Phan in one part of Greece ; and 
we may safely interpret the name of the bird 
phoenix, and the name given by the Greeks to 
the sea-faring inhabitants of Canaan, the Phoe- 
nicians, as at root the same as the name of the 
Arcadian god. The ideas of brightness and 

redness we may hold to be of later invention, 


' Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

after the tongues which might have explained 
the root had disappeared from Greece. 

Pan was a far older god on classic soil than 
Zeus or Apollo or Hera or Mercury — gods 
who usurped certain parts of him, gods who 
show his attributes separated and differentiated. 
In a language like Finnish the vowel in Pan 
would be broken up into several, as we see by 
his parallel, Vainamoinen. We see the same 
in Pan*s name in oldest Greece : Paian, Paieon. 
The Greeks of Aryan blood, the intrusive 
Greeks, did not ignore him entirely when they 
dispossessed him from Olympus and enthroned 
Zeus there, when they forced him to give 
quarters to Apollo on Mount Lycaeus. Homer 
speaks of him as Paian, or Paieon, the healing 
god, as Welcker pointed out long ago. The 
worshippers of Phoebus Apollo merely re- 
peated his name when they shouted their 
** pseans " and it is again the name of this old 
god which we find in that of the Paiones, 

tribes of Thessaly and Macedonia who spoke 
9 129 

Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

quite another tongue from Greek and later 

gave their name to Pannonia. 

Pan, then, once the chief god of all that 

part of Europe, has a parallel in Vaino among 

the Finns. As the latter is always unfortunate 

in love, as he pursues Aino till she drowns 

herself, so Pan is rarely successful ; in the 

case of Syrinx he loses her on the borders 

of the stream. Vaino invents the kantele; 

Pan, the pipes. The form we meet him in 

among the Aryan Greeks is a mere fragment 

of what he was : for he has parted with his 

thunder to Zeus ; his eloquence and song and 

sun traits and ill success with nymphs to 

Apollo ; his magic to Mercury; his water 

craft to Neptune. When Pan reaches out to 

seize the lovely, fleeing Syrinx by the hair 

and grasps the blades of the reeds, he consoles 

himself with the pipes that he fashions from 

them. Vaino is an " all-round " god who 

fashions his harp from the head of a giant 

sturgeon or pike, and while driving off his 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

own melancholy by music, is also intent on 
improving his people by what he sings. 

We only know Pan as the god of shepherds 
and rustic Arcadians rebellious to the military 
tyranny of the Laconians, a deity of the earlier 
folk of Greece who retired before the Dorian 
Greeks, conquerors of the Peloponnesus, into 
their forests and hills. There is no reason to 
believe that Pan, if he was portrayed by them^ 
was made to look like the shaggy goat god 
we find him in classic art. That is but a Greek 
way of expressing the rudeness of his effigies 
and the clumsy barbarism of his devotees. 
The Greek exercised his wit on the older 
populace by lampooning their god. It was 
not till after Marathon was fought that the 
Athenians admitted Pan to a place among the 
minor deities and dedicated a temple to him 
on the acropolis. Yet he is a god who has 
given his name, as just remarked, to several 
great peoples of the past — the Phoenicians, 
Paiones and Pannonians, the Venedae of the 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

Baltic, the Veneti of the Adriatic, and to many 
cities including Vienna (the Vindobona of the 
Romans) and to Venice. Pan is not dead. 
As Finn mac Cool he lives in the fairy stories 
and tales of giants told in Ireland; and as 
Vaino he is still much more than a name in 
song among the Finns. 

We have seen that the eagle and the cuckoo 
are birds that are often associated with Vsuno 
and doubtless these are the birds that the 
earliest beliefs gave to him. But at a very 
early period the splendor of the exotic peacock 
made the ancient inhabitants of Greece asso- 
ciate that bird ' with a representative of the 
sun, such as Pan was. Later he had to part 
with his eagle to Zeus and his peacock to 
Hera; but we can guess that the peacock 
was first assigned to him, because in Europe, 
with few exceptions, its name is a variant 
on that of Pan and generally keeps the ini- 
tial P, even when, as in Latin pavo, Esthonian 

pabu, it drops the n. Catalonian has an odd 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

form pago; Burgundian French had paivo; 
but the Berry dialect retains the n in pante, 
peahen. The Irish call the peacock payal, 
but write the word as if it had been padgal. 
Identified through the gorgeousness of its 
feathers and especially through the spots on 
the long plumes, the eyes that suggest the 
red-gold "eye of day," it could not fail to 
obtain the name that referred to the sun, the 
day and splendor, at the same time that it 
meant a bird god honored throughout Europe 
for his prophetic minstrelsy. Roman potters 
often stamped a figure of the peacock with 
plumes displayed on their little pottery hand 

We are told that the name of the peafowl 
used by the Greeks came with the bird from 
India, but was more immediately known to 
them under the Persian form tawus; and this 
form appears to have found lodgment in 
Greece alone, where it appears as taos, geni- 
tive tlon. That means that the Greeks did 


Gods in Ancient Europe 

not carry the bird on, but the Phcenidans 
did; for the rest of Europe gave it names 
that are similar to Esthonian paiva and paew, 
the sun, the day. Such are Latin pavo, 
pavonis, Irish payal, Vendish pawol, Esthonian 
pabu-lind, German Pfau. It became the bird 
of the healing god Paian, whose ancient half- 
fotgotten name the worshippers of Apollo 
called upon when they cried " lo Paian ! " It 
is the Greek bird god phaon, the shiner, and 
though in the l^end of the bird phoenix we 
have astronomical ideas, yet is the creature on 
which the phosnix was based the peacock ! 
Our word " pea " comes down through Anglo- 
Saxon pawa from some original sun and day 
term like the Finnish paivan-lintu " sun bird " 
and Esthonian pabu-lind " peacock." But 
when we come to the eagle, we shall find him 
the earliest phoenix of all. 

A characteristic of the peacock, in which he 
differs from many birds, is the humming noise 
he makes with his long feathers when wooing 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

his mate. This may have been the starting- 
point for the musical traits in Pan, Vaino, Fion 
and the Fenians, of whom the latter indulged 
in a very odd humming sound or chant called 
the dordfhiann. Concerning Faunus of Italy 
we know very little indeed ; but of Pan of 
Greece, Vaino of Finland and Fion of Ireland 
we know that they were unfortunate in love ; 
their wives or chosen ones fled from them. 
Perhaps we find the root of this in the be- 
havior of the peahen, who seems not only 
insensible to the strutting, the solar display, 
the arch of plumes and low humming of her 
pyrotechnical lover, but positively averse to 
him. At least she pretends to disregard his 
suit and constantly makes off, leaving her 
lord and master apparently appalled at her 
bad taste ! 

The bird of Juno seen on coins of Samos, 
where it is depicted standing on the prow of 
a galley, was all the more valued because it was 
not a native of Europe or Asia ; it must have 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

been reckoned as a gift for princes from the 
grayest dawn of history. As late as in his 
day the Emperor Adrian presented to the 
Heraion in the Corinthian district a magnifi- 
cent peacock in honor of Hera. It was of 
gold and jewels. But as early as barter ex- 
isted specimens of the matchless bird must occa- 
sionally have been brought from India by land 
and by water. The pristine navigators of the 
Indian Ocean, the Persian Gulf and the Red 
Sea, whom the Greeks named Phoinikoi and 
the Latins Punici, must have brought, as well 
to Europe as to King Solomon, the phaon or 
phoenix natural, not astronomical ; and we may 
well assume that they brought it with all its 
religious honors thick upon it, calling it the 
bird of their own high god. Otherwise the 
old peoples of Greece and Italy would hardly 
have named the bird after their own great god 
of light and day. 

Doubtless the Phoenicians merely trans- 
mitted to Europe the fame that the bird en- 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

joyed in India as the warner against tigers, 
foreteller of rain, visible emblem with its radi- 
ate flaming wing coverts and its dark-blue neck 
of the rainbow itself. Associated as it was 
with the close of the hot term in India and the 
coming of the rain and the cool season, doubt- 
less they found the Paiones of the -SIgean 
and of Thessaly, worshippers of Paian, and 
the devotees of Faunus, Vaino and Fion, as 
well as the Pelasgian dwellers on the islands of 
Samos and Lesbos, ready to name it after one 
of their most notable gods, ready to replace 
eagle or cuckoo in favor of the beautiful new- 

In Crete there was localized a curious story 
of Katreus (a name for the Indian peacock) 
king of Crete. His son Althamenes (the 
healer ?) discovered that he was fated to slay 
his father, whereupon he fled to the island of 
Rhodes and built a temple to Zeus. But he 
could not escape his fate. All his other sons 
having died, Katreus set sail for Rhodes, 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

landed, was attacked as an enemy and slain by 
his son before explanations could be made. 
Here we have the cuckoo story brought into 
connection with the peacock under a name 
that is probably not Greek at all, for in all 
likelihood Katreus is not a Greek name. 

How readily the peacock might find its tri- 
umphant way about the world is seen in the 
remains of a tomb of a Viking leader preserved 
at Christiania. The galley of war was his 
coffin; his armor and weapons were buried 
with him. And among his belongings one sees, 
shining still bright after a rest of eight centuries, 
the plumes of a peacock embedded in a mass of 
charred stuff. In the Middle Ages the peacock, 
stuffed and brought ceremoniously to table, 
was a feature in various solemnities, oaths 
being taken on the bird. These oaths, these 
ceremonies, can have been no other thing than 
survivals from the past when the bird was after 
a fashion worshipped, if not as a bird, then as a 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

It was on the island of Samos that the pea- 
cock became later specialized as the bird that 
drew the car of Hera and decorated the prows 
of her galleys. It was Lesbos, first inhabited 
by Pelasgians, that produced one of the seven 
wise men of Greece, also two of her greatest 
poets. Alcseus the poet and Sappho the poet- 
ess, who gave their names to special rhythms 
in verse; Pittacus the wise, whom Alcaeus 
satirized — these are called historical persons. 
But their names cast a suspicion on the rest of 
Greek history. Two bear the names of birds. 
Alcaeus is the halcyon, the kingfisher, fabled 
to cause the winds to cease until its eggs are 
hatched in its floating nest ; Pittacus is psitta- 
cus the parrot. Pythagoras, the mystic, far- 
travelled philosopher, was born in Samos, and 
though no well-defined bird traits are recorded 
of him, he seems to have flitted bird-like about 
the world — India, Crotona, Sicily — and cer- 
tainly had the attributes of Vaino. He pre- 
dicted storms and earthquakes, tamed with one 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

magic word the Daunian bear, taught the trans- 
migration of souls, was said to have learned his 
philosophy in " Scythia." And whatever may 
lurk beneath the great name Sappho — perhaps 
Sham as, the sun god, perhaps also the Sampo 
of the Kalevala — it is a name associated with 
that of Phaon, the peacock. 

Phaon, it will be recalled, was a favorite of 
Aphrodite. She presented him with an oint- 
ment, by applying which to his person he 
became the most beautiful of living men. 
Sappho had a hopeless passion for him and 
threw herself from the Leucadian Rock into 
the sea, where Aphrodite was said to have 
drowned herself for Adonis. The connection 
of birds with Phaon and with the Leucadian 
Rock is dimly felt through the story Strabo 
tells of criminals being thrown from this rock 
as a punishment. Their friends were allowed 
to attach birds to them, and if, thus buoyed 
up in the air, they reached the water alive, 

they were picked up by boats in waiting and 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

allowed to depart into exile. Here we seem 
to have a human sacrifice to a bird god analo- 
gous to Pan (Phaon) for whose sake Sappho 
herself was said to have taken the fatal leap. 

Pan is indeed a mysterious and little-under- 
stood deity. Were we to take only what the 
Greeks have vouchsafed 
to say of him, we would 
not learn much. But 
with the clew of bird 
traits and bird origins in 
our hand, we can find Pan 
under many disguises. 

The Greeks d^raded him ; or perhaps it were 
truer to say that they exalted other gods, their 
own special gods, above him. Thus in the 
career of Apollo we find fragments of the 
career of Pan ; because, as we have seen» 
Apollo ousted Pan and absorbed many of his 
attributes, such as mastery in song, divination^ 
bowmanship, eloquence — even Pan's hard 
luck in love. 

Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

But we find Pan more clearly in a reputed 
son of Apollo, the sweet singer Orpheus. If 
we want to make a reasonable guess at the god- 
lore taught to the intrusive Greeks by the sub- 
ject Paiones, let us look at the doings and 
beings of Orpheus. And then we find a bright 
side-light thrown by Vaino of the Finns, whose 
exploits were, in many ways, singularly like his. 
Vaino and Orpheus had the same mysterious 
birth ; both were teachers of the people and 
founders of states. Both were charmers of 
men and maids with music and song, nay, the 
birds and beasts and inanimate objects — 

All the beasts that haunt the woodland 
Fall upon their knees and wonder 
At the playing of the minstrel. 
At his miracles of concord. 
All the songsters of the forests 
Perch upon the trembling branches. 
Singing to the wondrous playing 
Of the harp of Wainamoinen. 
All the dwellers of the waters 
Leave their beds and caves and grottoes, 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

Swim against the shore and listen 
To the playing of the minstrel^ 
To the harp of Wainamoinen. 
All the little things in nature 
Come and listen to the music. 
To the notes of the enchanter. 
To the songs of the magician. 
To the harp of Wainamoinen, 

(ICalevalaf Rune XLIV^ Crawfird*s translation^ 

The adventures of Vaino, Ilmarinen and 
Lemminkainen while bringing back the Sampo 
from Pohjola have dim resemblance to those 
of Jason, Orpheus and the other heroes on 
their trip to Colchis : notably the attack on the 
Finnish heroes by Louhi in the shape of an 
eagle bearing armed men resembles the attack 
of the Stymphalian birds on the Greek heroes. 

But we must beware of supposing that a 
Greek poem like the Argonautica of ApoUonius 
of Rhodes was imitated in the north. The 
differences are too great. Each appears to 
have grown spontaneously ; only a very remote 
common origin can be imagined for both. 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

These parallels do not suggest the derivation 
of one god from the other, nor of one legend 
from the other, but a provenance from some 
early universal stock. Vaino and Orpheus 
visit the under-world, Vaino to obtain three 
words of magic in the belly of Antero Vipunen 
wherewith to build a boat — the Finnish Argo 
perhaps. Orpheus made his ever-memorable 
trip to hell to regain his wife, as Vaino and 
Ilmarinen go to the shadow land to obtain 
spouses. Like Vaino, Orpheus was soothsayer, 
enchanter, instructor of his people, inventor of 
the lyre ; and his name seems to come from the 
notion of the father-and-motherless one, the 
" orphan," in which respect he resembled not 
Vaino alone, but Arthur, but Kullervo and 
Kalevipoeg, Merlin the old Briton, Fion and 
Cuchullaind of the Irish. 

Vaino's intended wife went off with Ilma- 
rinen ; the wife of Orpheus was pursued by 
Aristaeus, another son of Apollo, until she 

found refuge in Hades, under which form of 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

the legend we see clearly enough the ill-luck 
with women that followed Vaino and Fion 
and Pan. No doubt in the earlier legends 
she fled wittingly. Evren in that which we 
have Orpheus completes his bad luck by 
looking back and breaking the charm, where- 
upon Eurydike flees down again into hell, 
from which it may be she came with reluc- 
tance. Orpheus comes to his death through 
women who tear him to pieces, while Pan, 
constantly teased and tormented by nymphs, 
was bewailed as dead; while Fion of Ireland 
is forced to see Grainne his sun-maiden elope 
with Diarmuid the irresistible. Pan and Vaino 
have also more serious adventures with wo- 
men, as we have seen. 

Pan's bird of grandeur was the eagle, but 
that was so long ago that the earliest Euro- 
peans must have been at the time in the same 
stage of culture as American Indians. On the 
west coast of America there is a belief in the 
Eagle of the Zenith, a gigantic bird too high 

Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

up in the air to be visible, which yet perceives 
all that exists and moves on earth and some- 
times descends in some awful visitation of 
nature. When he shakes his feathers, thunder 
rolls, hail and snow fall. The phoenix and the 
peacock, for they are one and the same bird, 
were used by the very early Christians to sym- 
bolize the resurrection from the dead. But the 
Christians of the Middle Ages did not copy 
them, for they found a chance to moralize 
about the bird and class it among the suspi- 
cious adjuncts of heathen gods. 

Perhaps with the relegation of Pan to the 
devils by the Christians the peacock became 
that synonym for the lusts of the flesh which 
we find it in the Middle Ages. That must also 
account for the idea thaCt peacock feathers are 
unlucky; they were badges of the heathen 
when Christianity was still fighting for its life 
in northern Europe. The writer of Job seems 
to have no such prejudice against the bird, for 

God says scornfully to Job : " Gavest thou the 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

goodly wings unto the peacock, or wings and 
feathers unto the ostrich ? " and proceeds to 
score the foolishness of the ostrich, but has no 
word to say against the peacock. It remained 
for the Middle Ages to cast odiousness upon 
this magnificent creature and to exalt into a 
fiivorite charge of coats of arms the " Pelican 
in its piety '* — as ugly and stupid a bird as 
one can find on the Nile. Yet those men of 
the Middle Ages who did not moralize es- 
teemed the peacock scarcely less, since we 
know that knights and esquires took an oath 
on the king's peacock, which was called the 
vcBu du paon. 

In these considerations of ancient bird gods 
in Europe I do not wish to be understood to 
confine the men and demigods noted to an 
exclusively bird origin. I wish to call atten- 
tion to a neglected field of mythology and folk- 
lore, by studying which very many anecdotes 
and actions, which otherwise must seem quite 
arbitrary, if not foolish, take their places in 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

rational sequence. I am trying to show the 
singular power of the imagination in taking 
some one striking fact, l^e the drumming of 
the woodpecker, the fosterage among cuckoos, 
the radiance of the peacock, and evolving from 
that simple cell the marvellously varied struc- 
tures of mythology and feiry-tale, folk-lore, 
epic and drama, to delight, starde, instruct and 
awe the successive generations of men. 

*Iis nothing hit alittle joiony Ovl* 


IT was near midnight ; the moon had laid the 
Colosseum with broad sheets of white on 
dark as I stood in the ancient arena and pon- 
dered — how to be rid of a small Italian, a self- 
imposed guide, who was keeping up a chatter 
in German, French, English and Italian, each 
bad of its kind and all impartially mixed. 

Then up in the arehes against the sky re- 
sounded a strange, not altt^ether unfamiliar 
sound — a screaming call that suggested the cry 
of the whippoorwill. 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

" I care nothing for the Colosseum and its 
history, my small friend," said I, " but much 
for that creature screaming up there ! What 
is it?" 

" O — that ? That is only a bruto uccello, 
cattivo ! an ugly bad bird that comes to people 
when they are sick and tells them they must 

Passing through the streets of Rome next 
day I came upon a seller of owls — poor little 
fellows fastened securely to the top of a pole by 
one foot. Every now and then one would fall 
from the top and flutter helplessly, hanging by 
the leg. In such guise they are in demand as 
lures for small birds, which hate them so bit- 
terly that as soon as they catch sight of them 
they are readily inveigled into traps or on to 
limed twigs. Otherwise owls are kept like 
cats or tortoises to free gardens from small 

The owl as an evil omen and the owl as 
a lure, these are the two phases under which a 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

harmless and most useful little bird is known 
to most people, not only in Europe, but in 
Asia and America. Its broad eyes that seem 
at night to shine with an inner light, its big 
head and high forehead, its mysterious feather- 
light flight and the disconcerting harshness of 
its cry have always given it an uncanny repute. 
Why has the witch always been more feared 
than the wizard, at least in historical times ? 
For some reason the small owl has generally 
been connected with the female sex. Not only 
was it the bird of the Maiden Maid, patroness 
of spinning, embroidery and the olive-orchard 
among the greatest of mankind, the classic 
Athenians, but it is still the woman's bird 
among the lowest of races, the blacks of Aus- 
tralia. Many of these tribes use " owl " as a 
synonym for " woman " and believe that when 
an owl is killed some woman's death is sure to 
follow. The women on the other hand call 
men " bats " ; the death of a bat, so they be- 
lieve, portends the death of a black fellow. 

Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

The small owl is female In most languages 
— Sanskrit, Greek, Latin, Lusatian-Vendish, 
German, French, Icelandic, Welsh, Hunga- 
rian. In English, Finnish and Esthonicn the 
sex is not distinguished; but I think that we 
generally consider the little owl feminine, as we 
do the cat, although Tennyson and Keats 
make the great white owl masculine — 

Alone and warming his five wits. 
The white owl in the belfiy sits — 


The owl for all his feathers was acold. 

This bird was in the Bible classed amongst 
those to eat which was " abomination " ; 
though why the owl, the cuckoo and the swan 
should have been placed on the black list in 
Leviticus has not been explained, nor will it 
seem clear unless we allow for the connection 
of each of these birds in the minds of the 
ancient Hebrews with heathen gods who ori- 
ginally were bird gods and dragged their 
attendant birds after them into " abomination." 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

Shakespeare must mean the owl when he 
says in his mystical Phoenix and Turtle : 

But thou, shrieking harbinger^ 
Fool pre-curser of the fiend. 
Augur of the fever's end. 
To this troop come thou not near ! 

And before him Chaucer remarked of the 
owl that " wonde ** or stayed all night on the 
" balkes " or beams of the house, that it was 
a foreteller of woe — 

The owle al nyght aboute the balkes wonde. 
That prophete ys of woo and of myschaunce. 

The European form of Christianity has 
been hard on birds, harder than Judaism. 
Perhaps it is for that reason one sees so much 
cruelty exercised toward birds in Italy, where 
at the hands of a ruthless race of men Chris- 
tianity has been perverted from its original 
beauty. Like other heathen peoples the 
Etruscans and Romans at least reverenced, 
at least feared the birds whose cries and 
devious flight seemed to foretell the future. 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

But the shocking form of religion evolved by 
the wickedness of the Middle Ages allowed the 
destruction and torture of hapless birds and 
beasts without remorse and with scarcely a 

In the island of Lesbos there existed a 

legend like that of Lot and his daughters, 

come down to us through 

Greek sources, in which 

^ the fair Nyctimene did 

i not know, when the 

crime occurred, that it 

was her &ther Opopeus 

with whom she sinned. 

On learning what she had done, she fled to the 

woods, where Pallas Athene took pity on her 

and turned her into an owl. In Welsh legend 

Blodeued ■ the wife of Llew is turned by 

Gwydion into an owl, because she betrayed 

her husband to death. Pallas is thoroughly 

mixed up with this bird, as we shall see ; it 

was no mere chance that gave her the owl. 

Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

Nyctimene (nux the night) evidently means 
the night creature ; her father's name Opop- 
eus is plainly that of the hoopoe (upupa) ; 
therefore the legend itself is one more example 
of bird myth humanized, like the crimes of 
heroes and heroines already traced back to the 
natural history of the cuckoo. 

The fact that the owl is useful to husband- 
men in ridding the grain fields of mice, which 
often bring famines by a sudden vast increase 
in their numbers, only confirmed the owl as 
a symbol of the Immortal Maid. These little 
screech-owls which are said to have been 
always common about the acropolis may well 
have protected other crops from mice beside 
grain, the olive for instance, a branch of which 
accompanies the owl on Attic coins. In 
Germany its names are many : Kauz is the 
commonest, but corpse-bird, corpse-hen, death - 
owl, sorrowing mother, indicate the supersti- 
tions to which its nocturnal habits and startling 
cry have given rise. In Austria one of its 

Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

names is Wichtl, litde wight, little kobold, 
suggesting a certain fondness for it on the 
part of the people. In Germany the Eulen- 
flucht in barns is a triangular hole left in 
the gable to permit owls to enter and destroy 

The usefulness of the small hooter must 
have been known to the ancients about the 
Mediterranean ; it certainly is to the moderns. 
In Austria, Greece and Italy it is commonly 
tamed or turned loose in gardens with clipped 
wings in order to keep down insects, slugs and 
mice. Small birds and bats are its prey; a 
singular habit of bowing and swelling up its 
feathers in a comical fashion makes it an 
amusing pet. The lively way in which the 
owl attacks and kills birds of its own size 
must have aided in keeping it long as a 
symbol of the warrior goddess; for many 
centuries it accompanied her head on Attic 
coins. But these are merely minor matters 
that confirmed its popularity in despite of a 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

sinister repute. More important was its posi- 
tion as luctifer " sorrow-bringer." As a 
haunter of moonlight and dusk it held its 
own place among the gods and half-gods of 
earliest Europe. 

Who Pallas Athene herself was, is one of 
the many puzzles of Greek mythology; yet 
it may be the little downy owl shall offer us 
a clew. 

Just why Pallas Athene should have . had 
the owl for her symbol the ancients never 
satisfactorily explained, nor have the moderns 
done so. Certainly it must have been for 
reasons more cogent than the fanciful one that 
the owl is a wise bird because it looks so 
solemn and was therefore given to Pallas 
because she was a wise goddess. 

The owl is the glaux, glarer, with its round 
yellow eyes ; Pallas is called glaukopis, glaux- 
eyed, because — she could see in the dark like 
an owl to carry off men's souls ! 

This was her office at the period when she 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

was the bride of Vulcan and did many things 
her worshippers afterwards suppressed. Much 
later must have been the epoch when the 
classical Greeks, who hated ugly things more 
than bad logic and inconsistency, raised her to 
the severe beauty and serenity of the chaste, 
warlike goddess, the Brunhild of Greece and 
at the same time the goddess of the spindle 
and of wisdom. 

Pallas of Athens had other symbols among 
living things, notably the serpent, which coils 
about her altar in Attika as it does in an 
Etruscan tomb-painting about the altar of 
Minerva. Pausanias suggests that this ser- 
pent is the symbol of the old King Erich- 
thonius of the aborigines. But she had the 
cock also, as one perceives from many a 
beautiful old Greek vase whereon she is de- 
picted standing in her stifFest hieratic attitude 
between two columns, on each of which is a 
game-cock. This is pre-eminently the bird 
of the dawn and must have been assigned 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

to Pallas as soon as it was introduced from 
the Orient, notwithstanding its masculine sex ; 
perhaps because at that early period the Mdid 
had not become so definitely not-male as later 
on. The owl is not only the bird of dusl^ 
but of moonlight, and 
as it is a European fowl, 
not an importation, like 
the cock, peacock and 
pheasant, must be held 
the earlier symbol of 
the two. Some early 
coins of Athens show a 
crescent moon along with 
owl and olive branch, 
others, somewhat later, 

three or four crescents with or without the 
owl. Since such symbols are generally in 
the nature of footnotes explanatory of the 
meaning of a god, we may safely consider 
that Pallas Athene was originally a deity of 
the night, rather than the day. Since owl 

Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

and serpent infest caves of the rock, we may 
consider her allied to the earth, that is to say, 
of the race of the giants and of the powers 
of darkness under the earth. We have seen 
in the last chapter how the Greeks of the 
time of Perikles placed the woman-headed 
winged lion on her helmet instead of the owl. 
This creature, like the eagle-headed lions or 
griffons on the sides of the helmet, are sym- 
bols of the power of Athene. 

She is perhaps a form of Selene the moon 
(Diana) and is own sister to Aurora the dawn. 
She and Aurora have the same family connec- 
tions. She got her name Pallas, according to 
Greek tradition, from the giant Pallas, grand- 
son of heaven and earth, cousin to Aurora. 
Another version of him is humanized into a 
son of Pandion, an ancient king of Arcadia, 
who is no other than Pan, the great primitive 
Turanian god. Pallas Athene is therefore 
descended from Pan, and gets her epithet' 

Paionia from the older form of Pan's name, 

1 60 

Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

Paieon. Another epithet is Pandrosos "all- 
dew " indicating once more a dusk and moon 
divinity. In Italy the goddess Minerva's 
name is explained by Isaac Taylor as Etrus- 
can for " heavens-red." She and Pallas repre- 
sent a being like the daughter of Mana in 
the Kalevala of the Finns — that dread spectre 
of the under-world — and it may well be that 
the "Men" in Menrfa and the "Man" in 
Manala are the same word. 

Our goddess's miraculous birth should not 
be forgot when we try to find her original 
meaning below the surface of her worship in 
classical Greece. Remembering that Pan was 
before Zeus, not as the goat-foot, but sovereign 
of the day, the sun and weather, the peculiar 
circumstances of the birth of Pallas Athene 
receive explanation. It will be remembered 
that she sprang full-armed from the head of 
her sire. So does the dawn rise above the 
head of the sun, spring from its head, as it 

approaches the horizon ; so does the moon 
II i6i 

Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

take fire from — as it were sprii^ fi-om — the 
head of the sun as the latter sinks to rest. 
There is reason to believe that the primitive 
peoples imagined one office of the moon and 
the dawn to be the purely feminine one of 
bathing and refi'eshing the sun during the 
night after his toilsome, dusty passage across 
the heavens^ sending him cleansed and bright 
next morning to run his course again. 

By the time of the Homeric poems the 
names of gods taken fi-om peoples not origi- 
nally Greek had become Greek property and 
stories regarding these gods had branched off 
into a hundred different versions with various 
godlike persons in the title roll. The bards had 
already exercised their wits in explaining the 
names of gods and heroes from Greek roots> 
just as in our epoch the Irish bards explained 
non-Keltic names of gods and heroes through 
Keltic roots. Take Ulysses for an example. 
The Greeks called him Odusseus, explaining 

the name as the '^ hated ^' one. But the 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

Etruscans with Uluxe and the Sikulians with 
Oulixes retained the earlier pronunciation. 
We have seen that iEneas the dove hero was 
the son of Aphrodite and took his name from 
oinasy dove. Throughout his life Ulysses was 
the pampered favorite of Pallas Athene the 
owl goddess ; in his name Oulixes^ Uluxe we 
find the ululadon of the owl ! 

This explanation of Ulysses will not seem so 
hazardous if one take the trouble to recall his 
relations with bird gods and remember certain 
main lines in his life. His adventure in steal- 
ing the Palladium from Troy was a night 
affair; so was his expedition from JExsl to 
Hades a night expedition ; and as an owl god 
his visit to the infernal regions was in 
character. The slaughter of the suitors of 
Penelope was like the vengeance the owl 
takes on the birds its mockers when even- 
ing comes ; and indeed Pallas Athene is with 
him at the time in the shape of a bird. 

He visits Kirke, the poisonmixer and witch 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

of iflEaea. Kirke means ** she-hawk *' ; she 
was the daughter of King -ZEetes (eagle) of 
Colchis. The universal cuckoo myth then 
returns. After he leaves Kirke, she bears 
his son Telegonos ("born-afar-off ") who when 
grown up lands on Ithaka in search of his 
father and kills him, not knowing who he is. 

Penelope the weaver, the wife of owl-wise 
Ulysses, is of bird origin too, a daughter of 
Icarius, in whom one finds the wings of Icarus 
again, and first cousin to Helen, the egg-born 
daughter of Leda (swan) and of her mortal 
father Tundareos, the woodpecker; therefore 
first cousin likewise to Pollux, whose name, as 
we shall see, means owl. 

And speaking of weaving, I am minded of 

the Maeonian nymph Arachne who contended 

^th Pallas Athene in that useful art and was 

turned by her into arachne, a spider. In this 

legend we are close upon the explanation of 

that great puzzle for archaeologists on which 

Max Muller, d'Arviella and others have 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

written so learnedly, not to speak of Ameri- 
cans like Thomas Wilson (" The Swastika " : 
Smithsonian Publications) namely the fylfot 
or swastika or cross with bent ends. This 
sign refers to weaving and was a short-hand 
picture of the spider ! 

The discovery on ancient shell ornaments 
from the American mounds of carvings of 
spiders with a cross on their backs gives the 
opening link in the chain. Schliemann*s find 
of innumerable spinning whorls and weights 
of terra cotta and stone bearing the cross 
symbol deep down in the strata of burned 
cities at Hissarlik gives another link. The 
beautiful American spiders with crosses on 
their backs, the European and Asian cross- 
marked spiders and the form of the central 
webs of spiders all the world over give yet 
another. The symbol of the cross has not 
migrated from India, as Mr. Wilson suggests, 
because the prophetic web-spinner is every- 
where. Everywhere men have observed that 

165 : 

Gods in Ancient Europe 

the spider foretells clear weather or storm by 
its peculiar ways of acting ; nearly everywhere 
it is a symbol of luck. Spiders foretold their 
fiite to the Thebans when, on the death of 
Philip of Macedon, they dared to revolt 
against Alescander the Great. The spider can 
make itself invisible by rapidly vibrating its 
web. Its marvellous ingenuity, patience and 
spirit ; its courage and powers of disappearance 
and prophecy marked it from the earliest ages 
as a symbol. Its most prominent marking, 
the cross, must have become at remote epochs 
a sign for the creature and for its wonderful 
trait, spinning. 

The shell gorgets in American mounds were 
probably useful as well as decorative. Hence 
the prevalence of the cross on early thread bob- 
bins and spindle whorls round about the earth, 
also on embroideries, woven and plaited cups, 
dishes and baskets, useful objects that were 
copied afterwards in pottery or stone, which 

qopies have come down to us in the lands 

^ : i66 

Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

about the Mediterranean as well as in the 
United States, while the woven and plaited 
originals themselves have perished. When 
found on the breech clouts of ancient idols, 
or the arms and legs of rude statues, the 
swastika has generally no reference to the god, 
but refers to weaving and merely represents a 
decoration on the clothing of these figures. 
Later, in America and Europe, it became a 
symbol of the four points of the compass and 
of rain and perhaps, still later, of the sun in 
relation to the weather, not the sun as a wheel 
or a chariot; for the symbol of the spider's 
cross, as we see from the American tribes who 
knew nothing of wheels or of a revolving sun, 
must antedate by many ages the discovery of 
the wheel. 

But from this digression on the cross-marked 
spider as the origin of the fylfot or swastika 
let us return to our owls. 

It is noteworthy that in Rome a festival for 

Minerva that lasted five days, the Minervalia, 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

should have been held in March ; it is then 
that owls most cry and flit about, that being their 
pairing season. Naturally people who watch 
the sick hear the owls cry ; moreover the sick 
die oftenest in the early morning. Hence the 
cry of the owl became closely associated with 
night and death and the bird attained in the 
most remote epochs a lugubrious fame. 

In the Rigveda the pious are urged to send 
up prayers to death and the god of death when 
they hear the owl call. At Rome where the 
auspex had a most elaborate ritual to comply 
with and minute rules to follow, he managed 
to distinguish no less than nine diflferent calls 
of the owl. It is singular that the super- 
stition which still ravages nurseries in Europe 
and America regarding cats, namely, that cats 
suck the breath of babies and strangle them, 
should have existed in Italy with regard to 
the owl. Pliny explains the name of the " in- 
fanda, improba strix" by the verb stringere, 

to throttle, because the evil bird throttles babes 

1 68 

Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

in the cradle. This idea persisting in the 
nursery while colleges of auspexes were suc- 
ceeded by convents of Christian priests gives 
an inkling of what that primitive thought may 
have been which lies at the origin of Pallas 
Athene and Minerva ; it measures the strength 
of superstitions as to spiders, owls and such 
small fry in surviving the crash of empires 
and the downlidl of vast religious systems. 
Who would have thought 
that Pallas Athen^ the wise 
and helpful vii^n goddess, 
could have been evolved 
from a cruel owl god of in- 
determinate sex, a murderous god, to whom 
the slaughter of men was a joy ? 

Long before wisdom was associated with the 
deity or with the owl, Pallas Athene must 
have been evolved from an owV into a soul 
guide, into a kind of valkyr, softly flitting on 
owlet's wings to carry off the souls of brave 
men to the shades. At Orte in Central Italy 

Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

was found a small bronze Minerva showing 
traces of wings and carrying an owl on her 
hand* The wings show that to the Etruscans 
she was a psychopompos, a soul guide ; the 
owl indicates the realm of darkness. Did 
not Ceres turn a son of Styx into an owl 
because he blabbed the secret that she 
had eaten seven grains of a pomegranate in 
Hades? In the Kalevala, when Vaino goes 
to hell to find three words of magic, he wisely 
declines to eat or drink there, and thus man- 
ages to escape the conjurations and copper 
nets of Mana. 

At Perugia there is an Etruscan tomb, on 
the rear wall of which two owls and a serpent 
are carved in relief. Owls as well as serpents 
are cliff and cave dwellers, hermits of darkness, 
and belong, if one may be allowed so grim a 
bull, to the ordinary livestock of the realm of 
death. In Florence and Rome I picked up 
two Etruscan scarab-shaped seals bearing the 

owl goddess — all owl save the head, which 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

has the points about it indicating a helmet. 
On one the owl goddess stands in the middle, 
full front, flanked by a sphinx and a bird- 
headed quadruped, both in profile and seated. 
This trio of winged gods has a strong hieratic 
look, not so suggestive of Egypt as Assyria, 
like other Etruscan works of art. One thinks 
of the bird-winged angels carrying souls, which 
are found on the famous Harpy Tomb from 
Lycia now in the British Museum. According 
to the ancients the Etruscans came to Italy 
from that part of the world. 

Seals like these were in common use to 
guard coffers and rooms from being opened, 
or to mark an animal or object for sacrifice, to 
identify objects or to certify ownership, or 
else they were used as signatures in the way 
common to the East ; they are found in great 
numbers in old Etruscan strongholds like 
Clusium. There can be little doubt that 
winged figures on seals, such as griffons, bird- 
headed human figures, human-headed beasts 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

and birds were talismans at the same time. 
An impression placed the object sealed under 
the protection of the god or demon repre- 
sented. The owl seals tacitly invoked the 
wrath of the moon goddess or valkyr on a 
thief bold enough to break them. 

The owl goddess of the Mediterranean had a 
parallel on the Baltic in comparatively recent 
times. Of the stone idols fashioned by the 
heathen Lapps some centuries ago Niurenius 
has stated that they were for the most part in 
the shape of birds. A god worshipped in Livo- 
nia is said to have flown in the shape of an qwI 
to the island of Oesel when Christian soldiers 
appeared in his temple. This god was invoked 
by those going into battle. In 12 19 priests 
from Germany destroyed this temple and in 
1225 the Esthonian inhabitants of Oesel are 
said to have thrown out the idol at command 
of the Christians. The name of the god was 
Tarapilla, so we are told, but that name is the 

Finnish word tarhapoUo, which means the owl. 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

The old writer Adam of Bremen mentions the 
worship of Tarapilla by the Esthonians and 
says that slaves without blemish were bought 
to be sacrificed to the owl god. 

In this connection we may recall what a 
commentator on the Iliad states about the 
Palladium, the talisman on which the safety 
of Troy depended* It was not a statue of 
Pallas Athene herself, but a small wooden 
image of an animal. May it not have been 
such a bird image, or more definitely such an 
image of an owl as the Esthonians worshipped 
on the Baltic ? It would not be in the least 
peculiar if Lapps, Finns and Esths had pre- 
served until recent times an ancient, rude 
worship that represents the beginnings of the 
worship of Pallas Athene in Attika. At the 
period in question, the gods could not yet 
have been organized on Olympus and Pan 
rather than Zeus was the great god of the 
sun and the thunderbolt. We may consider 
this early Pallas a cruel god whose sex was 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

doubtful, a god of soldiers, to whom captives 
and slaves were immolated, a deity of rapine 
and darkness whose visible symbol was the 

Concerning this god on the Baltic we have 
a peculiarly rude trait. When represented as 
a human deity he carried a long shaft of iron 
in place of a spear and was said to have heated 
one end of it red hot — not in order to chas- 
tise men at all, but to keep the lower gods 
and demons in order ! One thinks of Isvara, 
one of the forms of Siva, who picked up a red- 
hot iron his enemies the Rishis laid in his way 
and used it as a sword or club. 

One thinks of Charon, an infernal deity, 
beating the souls with his oar, or else, as he 
is depicted on Etruscan coffins and ash-boxes, 
brandishing with a frightful scowl an axe or 
hammer. And one recalls the Japanese de- 
mon queller who is so great a favorite with the 
painters and carvers in ivory. Perhaps it was 
the tyranny exercised by owls toward other 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

birds that suggested this to the old Finnic 
peoples on the Baltic when they invested Tai^ 
hapoUo with human form and a red-hot spear. 

In this word tarha is merely an explana- 
tory portion, polio alone 
meaning owl. It has 
a singular likeness to 
Pallas. If we suppose 
that the Aryan Greeks 
ended by assuming va- 
rious deities of a Tura- 
nian subject-race, we can 
easily account for the 
true meaning of Pallas 
in harmony with her attendant bird. 

Remarkable are the contrasts in the char- 
acter of Pallas Athene. We can explain them 
only by supposing a blending of traits from 
various supernatural beings, just as we find 
that a very popular saint will sometimes absorb 
legends and miracles originally not his, but the 
property of less known martyrs. Why should 

Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

this maid of Mars, who conquers Mars, this 
blue stocking, be the patroness of spinning ? 

In German popular songs the owl is often 
spoken of as a weaver, perhaps because of the 
odd movement of its head when disturbed. 

Recall that Minerva was originally a moon 
goddess and the daughter of the sun ; consider 
how natural a simile it is to speak of the sun 
or moonbeams as " weaving "or of their ap- 
pearance as that of woven cloth of silver or 
gold. Then read the Kalevala, where the 
daughters of the sun and moon listen to Vaino, 
the Turanian parallel of Pan-Orpheus, while 
he entrances the whole animate and super- 
natural world with his minstrelsy — 

In their hands the Moon's fair daughters 
Held their weaving-combs of silver. 
In their hands the Sun's sv^eet maidens 
Grasped the handles of their distafis. 
Weaving with their golden shuttles. 
Spinning from their silver spindles 
On the red rims of the cloudlets. 
On the bow of many colors. 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

As they hear the minstrel playing^ 
Hear the harp of Wainamoinen, 
Quick they drop their combs of silver. 
Drop the spindles from their fingers 
And the golden threads are broken. 
Broken are the threads of silver. 

(KalevcUa^ Rum XLI^ Crawfortfs translation.) 

Here we find the origin of Pallas Athene's 
prowess in weaving. And while we note that 
in process of time she became the wisest and 
most sedate of goddesses, her earlier career 
was checkered with a number of contests with 
other gods, notably with Poseidon for the pos- 
session of Attika, but also with Ares, Hera, 
Arachne and Aphrodite. In fact she was even 
more than a shrew ; she was a virago. This 
suits well the character of the owl, which is 
forever stirring the anger of other birds — 
forever in hot water — and yet, by observing 
a reserved and prudent conduct, manages 
to live its life in philosophic repose. The 
" mother of ruins " as it is called in Syria 
seems not only to have given its commonest 

12 177 

Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

name to Ulysses and its Turanian name 
(polio) to Pallas and Pollux, but by its pecu- 
liar ways to have done much to suggest the 
characteristics of that great goddess — a singu- 
lar outcome, indeed, when we reflect with 
Shelley that "'Tis nothing but a little downy 
owl 1" 



IT is recorded of King Edward the First of 
England that on a certmn solemn occasion 
in the year 1304, his investiture as a knight, 
two swans decorated with gold nets were 
brought in, and he thereupon swore an oath 
to the God of Heaven on these swans. The 
heathen origin of this oath is plain enough; 
it is like the oath on the king's peacock or 

Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

on the horse's head. It was an ancient pagan 
oath in the north connected with the worship 
of Freyr. But at first blush one would not 
suppose that a bit of Yankee speech, found in 
the United States among country people, re- 
ferred to this very bird, if not exactly to the 
same oath. 

On the stage or in the funny corner of 
the newspapers the ordinary Yankee from 
the country uses an oath or affirmation 
** I swan ! " or " I swanny ! " or " Swan toe 
man ! " This is called by the dictionaries an 
attempt to disguise the word " swear," as 
** gosh " is used to soften, if not disguise, the 
name of the deity. But the dictionaries are 
at fault. " I swan " never meant exactly *' I 
swear " ; nor would there be any reason in 
softening swear to swan, as God is softened 
to "gosh." 

Swan is just the bird ; and " I swan " or 

"it swans to me" meant originally that the 

speaker had a prophetic, all-overish feeling 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

that something was going to happen, and he 
used the term by which he knew that particu- 
lar fowl, because the swan has from time 
immemorial been a bird of prophecy. 

The same order of ideas regarding the swan 
has enriched the German language with an 
identical expression : Es schwanet mir (it 
swans to me) means that a premonitory or 
prophetic shudder is felt, such as is expressed 
by the popular exclamation " Somebody *s 
walking over my grave ! " 

Let the priest in surplice white 
That defunctive music can 
Be the death-divining swan^ 
Lest the requiem lack his right. 

(Phcenix and Turtle.) 

In 1440 Frederick II of Brandenburg insti- 
tuted an Order of the Swan, and at Cleves 
there was also an order of Knighthood of the 
Swan, showing that swan worship lingered in 
ceremonies long after it had been ousted or 
covered up by Christianity. 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

Not the magnificence of the swan merely, 
but this element of superstitious reverence 
accounts for the frequency of the swan as a 
crest and charge of coats of arms. Perhaps 
the eagle alone surpassed the swan in popu- 
larity for this purpose during the later Middle 
Ages and the centuries nearer our time, when 
heraldry began to affect the airs of an exact 
science and most well-to-do people, whatso- 
ever their birth and descent, thought it neces- 
sary to set up a coat of arms. Thus in 
heraldry does the swan run back through 
heraldic devices to totemism. Among the 
^^ oath birds " which the wizards of Lapland 
called upon in their incantations the swan 
often figured. The shaman would tell how 
the saivo-lodde, or bird fi-om the magic place 
called saivo, carried him on its back to that 
realm of mystery where he learned what is 
hidden to ordinary mortals. Hardly less 
potent than the eagle's feather was the feather 

of a swan among his stock of talismans and 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

magical paraphernalia. In all the northern 
and western part of Europe, in the marshy, 
lake-strewn lands of Scandinavia, Russia and 
Germany, as well as among the lake regions 
of Greece and Turkestan, the swan was a 
bird to conjure with. 

The large white swan, domesticated in order 
to grace ornamental waters, is very nearly 
mute; but the somewhat slenderer whistling 
swan (Cygnus musicus) sings a great deal, 
and indeed is particularly loquacious when 
wounded or dying. Observations of the mute 
swan caused people to assign the song of the 
dying swan to the most fabulous of fables ; 
but modem bird lovers have heard the swans 
of Russia singing their own dirge in the north, 
when, having lingered too long before migra- 
tion, reduced in strength by lack of food and 
frozen fast to the ice where they have rested 
overnight, they clang their lives out, even as 
the ancients said. Chaucer in '^ Anelyda and 
Arcite" had good reason to sing — 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

But as the swan, I have herd seyd ful yore — 
Ageyns his dethe shall singen his penaunce — So 
singe I here the destinye or chaunce — How that 
Arcite, etc. 

Musical swans used to come in such flocks 
to a lake near Liban that it was called the lake 
of complaining — Klagesee. 

In England the musical swan seems a rare 
winter visitant now-a-days ; it is supposed 
never to have bred there. Special provisions 
for breeding swans seem to have come into 
England with the Norman kings, who may 
have inherited their reverence for the bird 
from the habits of chiefs and magnates in 
Denmark and Norway, their northern ances- 
tors. It was not by chance that Edward the 
First, one of the greatest kings after the Con- 
queror, swore an oath on the swan. Fattened 
roast cygnet (a Norman word) is still eaten in 
England. By the time of Elizabeth the keep- 
ing of swans had ceased to be a royal preroga- 
tive and to-day the largest " game " of swans 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

is the property of Lord Ilchester, who owns 
the great swannery of the Fleet on the coast 
of Dorsetshire, 

Swans were at one time considered for their 
useful qualities as food, but it is doubtful if 
birds so difficult to keep in domestication 
would have been so carefully preserved in the 
various royal and other swanneries of England 
if sentiment and superstition had not worked 
hand in hand for their preservation. Among 
the ancients as well as in the twelfth century 
it was great luck to meet a swan at sea. While 
the Scandinavian tongues have the word swan 
it is curious that in Icelandic and Old Norse 
the name for the swan in common use is and 
was practically identical with that for fairy. 
Icelandic alptir, Norse elptr, elftr, swans, is 
scarcely to be distinguished from Icelandic 
alfar, albr, elves. It is true that the latter is 
masculine, while the word for swan is femi- 
nine ; but one is tempted to see a radical con- 
nection of thought between the two. 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

Legends and &iry stories abound, in which 
men and women become swans for longer or 
shorter periods. They are either permanently 
swans or can change themselves for a time into 
a bird that is at home in the water and the air, 
a bird that fears neither darkness, nor cold, nor 
the dizziest heights of the sky, nor the depths 
of the sea ; that rejoices in snowy tracts of ice 
and rears its young, like the halcyon of fable, 
on masses of floating reeds. It may be that 
the great river Elbe that springs from the 
" sea-coast " of Bohemia, splits the realms of 
Saxony and Prussia in two, and reaches ocean 
in the ancient free commonwealth of Hamburg, 
was first named from the magic bird whose 
nanie was the same as elf Elb is still the 
word for a fairy in German to-day, and Elb 
or Elbschwan is the German name for a 
variety of the bird, while in Northumberland 
elk, Welsh elyrch, is a wild swan. 

Indeed it might be well to give up the 

attempt to explain the name of the, river 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

Elbe from the Latin word albus, white, and 
seek nearer home for a word formerly and still 
used in northern Germany. 

The swan is the sacred bird at the well of 
Urda, the prophetess in the Edda, In the 
Volundarquitha three magic women, seated on 
the shore spinning flax, have by their sides 
their alptar-hamir or skins of swan feathers. 
When we come to speak of the Graiai, these 
three swan women will emerge in quite another 

Not a little curious is it that certain small 
rudely-cast idols found during the last cen- 
tury in Mecklenburg should have a swan or 
goose on their heads. They were said to 
have been dug up on the site of a famous 
Vendish town called Rhetra, which in the 
Middle Ages lay on several hills surrounded 
by water from the Baltic. The waters have 
retired since, leaving the valleys dry. Here 
according to old historians was a temple of 

the Vends in a grove ; it was destroyed by 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

German armies ; and these remains certdnly 

show the action of fire. Among the idols 

were some called those of Radigast, a historic 

god of the old inhabitants of Mecklenburg, 

carrying a bull's head (still the badge of 

Mecklenburg) in the right hand, a battle axe 

in the left and a swan on his head. In this 

case the face of the idol is not human, but that 

of a dog, bear or lion. A grille ornamented 

with the figure of a swan was found in the 

same hoard ; it was supposed to belong to the 

service of the temple. AH these objects were 

rudely inscribed with names of gods in runic 

letters, which may of course have been placed 

on them by the finders in order to enhance 

the value of the idols. The swan or goose, 

however, would very well suit the coarsely 

fashioned idol of a tribe of Vends among the 

lakes and watercourses of Mecklenburg, since 

it fits exactly the accounts we have of other 

heathen idols about the Baltic, such as the 

owl gods of the Livonians, whose last resort 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

was the island of Oesel, concerning which 
mention is made in a former chapter. 

Looked at in this way, it is not so strange 
that swans at a very early epoch became as- 
sociated with the night and moonlight, a con- 
nection which was self-evident for the owl, for 
instance, but not so readily seen to apply to 
the swan. It may have been the noise that 
migrating or resting swans of the vocal sort 
(Cygnus musicus) make at night ; it may have 
been the splendor of the swan's plumage on a 
dark sea or against a night sky, which forced a 
comparison with " that orbed maiden, with 
white fire laden, whom mortals call the moon." 
And when we consider the Baltic and the swan^ 
it is odd that the Greek and Latin names for 
the swan, kuknos, cygnus, resemble strongly 
Esthonian kukene, "little moon," and perhaps 
do represent some very ancient reduplication 
of kuu (" moon " in Finnish and Esthonian) 
which was used by the original inhabitants of 

Greece and Italy. Perhaps this is the same 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

word from which grew the Latin name for the 
stork, ciconia. The modern terms in Estho- 
nian for swan are kuik and luig ; in Finnish 
luiko and joutsen; in Koibal and Karagash, 
ku. Those parts of the globe which the musi- 
cal wild swan still inhabits, Lapland, eastern 
Siberia, Turkestan, are the same which from 
primeval times have been the home of the 
Finnic nations. In central Asia the swan is 
still so sacred a bird that the Tatar who obtains 
one rides with it to the nearest yurt, where his 
neighbor gives him a horse in exchange for it ; 
the neighbor then takes the swan and ex- 
changes it for the horse of another, and so 
on, until the poor bird is in such bad condi- 
tion that no one is willing to swap a horse for 
it more. Perhaps this may explain the use 
of " swan " in an Early English poem quoted 
by Halliwell (here modernized) — 

Teach it forthwith throughout the land 

One to the other that this book have now ** swan " — 

that is to say, prophetic power. 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

The prevalence in Europe of the legends 
and fairy-tales just mentioned, in which chiefly 
figure youths, princesses and maidens who 
turn into swans, scarcely requires specification. 
They are found in the Arabian Nights and in 
Chinese tales. Usually the hero of the Euro- 
pean tale catches the swan maidens bathing 
in the same way as his Chinese semblant, and 
by seizing one of the swanskin cloaks on the 
shore obtains power over the magic woman. 
Also he is incautious enough or sly enough in 
later years to show his wife the swanskin, 
whereupon she puts it on and flies out of the 
window. Another German expression to in- 
dicate uncanny knowledge is : Es wachsen mir 
Schwan-federn "swan's feathers are growing 

on me." 

The Chinese envoy Li Tung Yuan reported 

from Lew Choo the legend of a swan woman 

whom a peasant found bathing in his well. 

He seized her and made her his wife for ten 

years. Similar tales in Persian legend and 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

Irish fiury-Iore could be cited if we had the 
space, and since the goose is often put for the 
swan, it may be that our phrase " I feel goose- 
flesh " may hark back to the time when that 
shudder of awe which is accompanied by what 
is vulgarly termed goose-flesh was assigned to 
the presence of an elfin 
being in the shape of 
a bird. Of the swan 
maiden sort in popular 
thought was Berchta or 
Bertha of the big feet, 
that is, of the swan's or 
goose's feet ; for she is pointed out in various 
French cathedrals in the statue of a woman 
who ends in the webbed feet of a water fowl. 
She is la reine Pedauque, the mother of Charle- 
mi^ne. She and all swan maidens, it is well 
known, are in fact Valkyrs, conductors of souls 
to the land of shades, who have been taken out 
of their ordinary rolls and given a fresh lease 
of life as the wives of mortal king, prince or 

Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

lucky peasant. Such is the beautiful Suometar 
of Finland, of whom one reads in the Kantele- 
tar or collection of Finnish poems. She was 
born from the egg of a goose and was so attrac- 
tive that the sun, the moon and the northstar 
came down to earth to woo her for a wife. 

Cygnus the swan appears in Greek myth- 
ology again and again, oftenest under the name 
of some ancient king named Kuknos. There 
was the son of Stheneleus, a great musician 
among the " Ligyes " far beyond the Po, in 
fact on the Baltic, who mourned himself to 
death over the fall of Phaeton from the sky, 
whereupon Apollo turned him into a swan. 
The fable is well fitted to the northern land 
where the sun disappears for months and 
where peoples of the Finnic race live who call 
the swan luig. 

In his description of Attika the traveller 
Pausanias has preserved the following testi- 
mony to the repute of the swan as a bird of 
prophecy : 

^3 193 

Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

" Not far from the Academe is a monument 
of Plato to whom the god foretold his future 
greatness in philosophy. He did it thus : In 
the night before Plato was to become the 
pupil of Sokrates, the latter in a dream saw 
a swan take refuge in his bosom. Now the 
swan has a reputation for music, because a man 
who loved music very much, Kuknos, the king 
of the Ligyes beyond the Eridanus, is said to 
have ruled the land of the Kelts. People 
relate concerning him that through the will 
of Apollo he was changed after his death into 
a swan. I am willing to believe that a man 
who loved music may have ruled over the 
Ligyes, but that a human being was turned 
into a bird is a thing impossible for me to 

Then there was Kuknos, a son of Mars 
or Picus, whom Herakles killed in his father's 
presence. When attacked by Mars, the demi- 
god put the god to flight by a spear-thrust 

through the thigh. And in fact the swan flies 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

before the lance of the sun god to his northern 
breeding grounds. A third Kuknos was a son 
of Neptune and an invulnerable hero at the 
siege of Troy. He was choked to death by 
Achilleus — a swan slain by an eagle ! True 
to his name, Neptune turned him into a 

This particular " historic " Kuknos betrays 
his bird origin in another way. Having had 
a son and daughter by a former wife, after her 
death he marries Phylonome, who falls in love 
with her step-son Tennes. Anger at his cool- 
ness and fear of discovery cause her to slander 
her step-son to his father, who places Tennes 
and his sister Hemithea (demi-goddess) in a 
chest, which floats ashore on the island 
Leukophrys. Kuknos learns that his son is 
safe and goes to Leukophrys prepared to take 
him to his heart again, but the son rejects 
his advances. This is the same story as that 
of Kupselos, son of Eedon, who was placed 
in a box and committed like Moses to the 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

waters. The father Eetion is plainly Greek 
aietos, eagle. 

Doubtless these legends can be ultimately 
based on the floating nests which swans some- 
times build, and on the fact that parent birds 
and their young will have nothing to do with 
each other after they have once been separated 
for any length of time. 

A very singular trio in Greek mythology 
is that of the Graiai, called the Phorcydes 
because they were the daughters of Phorcus 
and Keto. They were hoary or gray from 
their birth, like the cygnets of the swan ; they 
had swan shapes, but only one eye and one 
tooth among them ! The single eye may 
allude to a habit of gregarious creatures of 
keeping one of their number ever on the alert 
like a vedette, though Schwartz considers it the 
lightning flash. 

Their names suggest that in their case the 

idea of the Valkyr or conductor of souls from 

the body to the under-world was very near 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

the surface. They are the guardians of the 
Gorgons — notwithstanding their single eye ! 
and they have these disquieting names : Peph- 
redo " horrifier," Enyo " shaker " and Deino 
" terrifier." Their swan nature is not ex- 
pressed in music, as in the case of Kuknos, 
nor can they be assigned to joyful themes 
such as occupied the swan formerly on the 
island of Rugen in the Baltic. There the 
swan had the task that is elsewhere now-a-days 
given to the stork, that of bringing the newly 
born child to its parents. 

Though the musical swan is not quite so 
large or so graceful as the greater swan, it has 
qualities that must have made a deep impres- 
sion on the early peoples of Europe, Asia 
and North Africa at a time when it was very 
common because difficult to shoot with arrows. 
In fact a very powerful shaft would be needed, 
were it not to rebound from the strong feathers 
of the bird. The Icelanders likened the " klee- 

klee" and "ang" tones of this swan to the 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

sounds of a violin. Pallas the ornitholo^st 
says they resemble silver bells and Olafsson 
says that in the long Polar night it is delight- 
ful to hear a flock passing overhead, the 
mixture of sounds resembling trumpets and 
violins. Another peculiarity of this swan that 
could not escape observation is its tyrannical 
nature ; it quarrels and fights with other birds 
and is a nuisance when kept in captivity, if 
other birds are present. Moreover it is a very 
sly bird and keeps the sharpest watch on the 
hunter, so that even with firearms it is hard 
to approach within killing distance. Its ag- 
gressiveness toward other birds, its apparent 
wisdom and its known habit of flying by 
night make it the natural rival of the owl as 
a symbol of moon and night gods. 

The gray color as of cygnets and the swan 
shapes of the Graiai, as well as their terrifying 
names and service as watchmen of the Gor- 
gons, explain very well an allusion to the 

"swan of hell" in the Kalevala in the episode 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

of Lemminkainen, demanding peremptorily the 
daughter of Louhi the Hag of the North for 
his wife : 

Louhiy hostess of Pohjola, 
Made this answer to the suitor : 
** I will only give my daughter. 
Give to thee my direst virgin. 
Bride of thine to be forever. 
When for me the swan thou killest 
In the river of Tuoni, 
Swimming in the black death-river. 
In the sacred stream and whirlpool ; 
Thou canst try one cross-bow only. 
But one arrow from thy quiver." 

It is Lemminkainen's third trial. He has 

caught the magic machine that looks like 

a moose, the moose of Hiisi ; he has bridled 

Hiisi's flaming horse as Jason bridled and 

drove the fire-breathing oxen of -ZEetes of 

Colchis; but this third venture fails because 

he is shot from behind, like Balder and 

Achilleus, falls into the coal-black current of 

the stream of death and is chopped to pieces, 

like Osiris. Singular that the swan, so closely 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

allied in the primitive religions with death and 
the dead-land, should under Greek, influence 
rise to be the symbol of genial, art-loving 
Apollo and rollicking Bacchus ! 

Among the curious statements regarding 
Apollo is one that Alcaius* 
a name corrupted from 
that of the halcyon bird^ 
leads Apollo at midsum- 
mer from the Hyperbo- 
reans (the north) and that 
I Apollo is drawn along by 
swans. This recalls the 
swan-borne knight in the 
story of the Graal which 
has found its way into 
modern opera. German local legends retain 
the idea of the swan as an uncanny bird, pro- 
phetic of death or the under-world. 

Thus at Heiligensee (holy lake) a peasant 
digging in his garden struck an iron chain that 
Beemed to have no end. Suddenly a black swan 

Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

rose up near him in the water. In his fright 
he dropped the chain, when swan and chain 
as suddenly vanished. At Kemnitz in the 
Mark a nightwatchman averred that he could 
always tell when some one in the village was 
about to die. On such occasions, just before 
he cried midnight, a white swan came up out 
of Plessow lake and walked to the churchyard. 
When he saw it he did not dare call the hour. 
Once it appeared, went to the churchyard, 
but passed on to the residence of the baron. 
He ran home, roused his family and told them 
of the portent. Sure enough, within the week 
the baron died! 

These superstitions belong to the old region 
where Radigast was worshipped, the god whose 
metal effigies found on the site of Rhetra bear 
the swan on their heads. The Valkyrs lin- 
gered down to this century as flying women 
with ice-cold hands who plague men at night 
and ride the fattest of the horses on farms 

until they lose their appetites and flesh. A 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

man once caught such a " Walriderske " in 
his house and made her his wife; but at last 
he showed her the hole through which she 
entered, whereupon she flew out and never 
came again. 

The swan very naturally appears in Irish 
legends and especially in connection with the 
cuckoo hero, Cuchullaind. Fand and Liban, 
wives of Mananan of the sea, appear to Cu- 
chullaind as two swans linked together by a 
chain of gold ; when he strikes them with 
' his spear, he falls into that state of emaciation 
and frenzy which was noted in the chapter on 
the cuckoo. In another version he falls into 
this condition when separated from Fand. 
Professor Rhys derives Fand from the same 
root as Latin unda ; she is the primitive 
Undine of La Motte Fouque*s fairy-tale. 
On another adventure CuchuUaind finds a 
princess exposed like Andromeda on the sea- 
shore as tribute to the fog giants or pirates, the 

Fomori. He kills the Fomori ; the rescued 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

princess and her maid-servant follow him in 
the shape of swans. She was the daughter of 
the King of Lochlan, the land of lakes, vari- 
ously identified as Scotland or Norway, but 
really the land under the sea, the under- 

The great roll played by birds in the old 
Greek myths is particularly evident in the 
story of Leda, the mother of Pollux (polio the 
owl) and Helena (selene the moon). Leda is 
the same as Linda, Esthonian for bird, the 
mother of Kalevipoeg. 

Jupiter approaching Leda in the form of a 
male swan rouses disgust or laughter, as the 
case may be ; but when we discover that such 
stories are the natural result of confusion in 
the Greek mind, owing to the variety of 
materials and forgotten origin of the myths, 
one ceases to wonder. Long before Christ 
the ponderer on the meaning of gods, temple 
ceremonials, legends and myths was the vie- 
tim of lack of records. He was gazing back 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

through a perspective that changed the sim- 
plest things into the most complex. A rade 
nature worship, akin to an Australian's for a 
bird or beast, had been complicated by ex- 
plaining that worship as one of heavenly con^ 
stellations, or of dawn, or of thunder, or of 

Then the humanizing tendency set in and 
the gods of the sky were brought down to 
earth and mixed up with earthly men whose 
deeds historical were interpreted partially in a 
superhuman way. So it came about that a 
swan myth arose in which Pan, or later, Jupi- 
ter as a swan demon begat on Leda a swan- 
Valkyr the lady moon Selene 
or Helena, as well as the war- 
rior twins Castor and Pollux, 
these three issuing from eggs 
like the Karakutengu of the 
Japanese. That this is the probable origin 
of the Leda myth appears from what has been 
in the present century learned from the bal- 

Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

lads of people embraced by Greeks and Ro- 
mans under the general title of '^ folk beyond 
the north wind." 

In the Kalevipoeg we read of three brothers 
of the north, born of the gods, the youngest 
of whom, Kalev, was carried by an eagle to 
Esthonia and there founded a kingdom. A 
widow of that land found in the fields a pullet> 
the egg of a grouse and a young crow. The 
pullet she placed in a brood-basket over the 
egg. One day she found that pullet, egg and 
crow had turned into three maidens — Salme, 
Linda and an orphan girl or drudge. It is 
Linda, whose name means " bird " that Kalev 
wins for his bride. 

Sun, moon, ocean, wind and riches come to 
woo Linda, but Kalev is the preferred one* 
He represents the eagle, just as, though for 
the time being a swan in the story of Leda, 
Zeus-Pan is oftener represented by the eagle. 
The time having come to break oiF the wed- 
ding festival — 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

Kdev their departure hastened. 
Urging Linda to departure. 
Grouse-child her good-bye to utter. 
His fiur swan to stop the party. 

And on their sleigh-ride to the new home of 
the bride Kalev remarks — 

O my Linda, O my darling. 
What at home have you foigotten ? 
Threefold things have you forgotten : 
First the Moon before your dwelling 
And he is your ancient Father ; 
Next the Sun before the bath house 
And he is your ancient Uncle ; 
Then the birch-trees at your window 
And they are your blossoming brothers^ 
Are your cousins from the woodland. 

The allusion to birches refers to the birch- 
grouse from whose egg Linda was bom; the 
allusion to the moon as her father refers to 
her poetical, mythological descent from a moon 
god. If their son is the cuckoo, Linda may 
be guessed a swan. Now with Leda, the 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

mother of Castor, Pollux and Helena, the 

mixture of moon and bird is different in 

arrangement, but the analogy is clear enough 

to show that the Finnish-Esthonian and the 

Greek myths sprang from some original root. 

Leda's mortal husband is a bird too ; Tunda- 

reos (from a root like that of Latin tundo, to 

strike) is our old friend Picus the woodpecker. 

Moreover the career of Castor and Pollux, 

the Di-oscuri or darkness gods on whom 

Greek and Roman soldiers called in battle, 

show that they are male counterparts of the 

Valkyrs or female conductors of the souls that 

perish in war, true sons of the swan and moon 

goddess Leda. 

Leukippos (white horse) had two daughters, 

Phoebe (brightness) and Ilaeira (joyfulness), 

who were to marry Idas (sight) and Lynceus 

(light) the sons of Aphareus (aphar swift). 

But Castor and Pollux came to the wedding 

and carried oiF the brides : the powers of night 

defeated the sons of day. 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

In the minds of the inhabitants of Greece 
and Italy, before the Greeks and Latins held 
sway a connection existed between the swan 
and wine. We see that by the frequency of 
swans on early jars and wine-cups. On what 
is called the Anubis vase found at Clusium 
there are swans behind the dog-headed deity 
and behind the bearded god with wings who 
stands next to the Gorgon. The handles of 
bronze wine-strainers found in Etruscan tombs 
often end in a swan's neck and head. In the 
Etruscan Museum at Florence is a small 
bronze group of a young man on whose 
shoulders a teasing genius has alighted with 
a wine-cup in his hand. This genius of wine 
wears a most singular tall cap which is nothing 
more nor less than the neck and head of a 
swan. Here is a curious problem for archae- 
ologist and myth interpreters. 

Dionysos the wine god is by some myth- 

ologists traced to a night god, and the wild 

revel of his train by night with torches over 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

hill and dale compared to the wild hunts- 
man legends of the north of Europe. This 
may be the point of contact between the swan 
god and the wine god. But after all the 
relation is as mysterious as that between the 
owl and the opposite to drunkenness. For 
it appears that owls' e^s were a sure cure for 
that vice in the pharmacopceia of the Middle 
Ages. The owl is a thing of fear; and fear 
sobers. There may lie the connection of 


RELENTLESS is the destruction of our 
large birds of prey since the perfection 
of firearms. In the Eastern and Central States 
of America the e^le has become so rare a crea- 
ture that he is often mistaken for osprey or 
great hawk, if there is nothing near him to 
show his greater size. 

I remember a perfect day off Narragansett 
Pier, the ocean dotted with graceiiil yachts. 

Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

a flotilla of huge steamboats, tugboats, sailing 
craft of every sort assembled at the starting- 
point to watch a race. With steady, superb 
strokes came directly from the sea an eagle. 
No one seemed to see him and he scorned to 
notice anything. He deigned neither to swerve 
aside nor rise far above ; but steered his level 
way straight through the fleet on his path 
toward Conanicut and the mountains beyond. 
It was as if the last chief of the Indians of New 
England had passed into that dusky brown 
form and refused, even as a spirit, to recognize 
the pale-faces whose ancestors did his race to 
death with powder, ball and poisoned waters. 
Perhaps he too has fallen ere this a prey to 
the madness for slaughter which is one of the 
charms of our civilization ! 

If by his marvellous flight, audacity and 
superb aloofness the eagle has so impressed the 
modern world that his figure is the badge 
chosen for five of the greatest nations of the 
earth — Russia, Germany, Austria, France 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

and the United States — one may guess what 
early men thought of a creature that was so 
easily the king of birds. It was enough to see 
a bearded eagle beat a chamois from the clifF 
in order to feast on its carcass, or the golden 
eagle rob the osprey of its fish. Who has ever 
seen an eagle decrepit with old age, or found 
an eagle's bones ? No one. Well, then, the 
story must be true. After a few hundred years 
spent in domineering over the feathered and 
furry tribes, the eagle merely ascends at mid- 
day his spiral stair of air, until lost in the efful- 
gence of the sun, whence he plunges down to 
the sea a rejuvenated creature. Like Herakles 
he enters a second life through the purifying 
effects of fire. 

That is why in the Middle Ages the Welsh 
bards wrote dialogues between the eagle and 
King Arthur; why Charlemagne had above 
his palace*at Aachen a bronze eagle whose beak 
was turned toward the nation about to be con- 
quered ; why an eagle was pictured as one of 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

the animal guardians of Walhalla, where the 

gods of the Norse feasted ; why the symbols 

in war round which the legions of Rome rallied 

were called eagles, as a generic term, just as we 

should say banners or flags. 

Eagles not only renewed, their own life 

through fire, but began existence with a fire test ; 

for the young eagle which could not look the 

sun in the eye without blinking was said to be 

killed by its parents as a creature unfitted for 

the lofty career before it. Aetites or eagle 

stones found in the eyry were still greatly 

prized two centuries ago for a variety of virtues. 

They are pebbles or roundish stones of clay, 

rusty with oxide of iron, having loose stones or 

crystals within their hollow hearts, and they 

show plainly enough the action of fire. We 

may guess the eagle was thought to bring these 

wonder stones down from the sun or from some 

volcano ; at any rate they cured diseases of the 

eyes, aided women in labor, and, oddly enough, 

detected thieves, perhaps because, coming from 

a 13 

Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

the sun, they shared the sun's power to reveal 
secrets of darkness. The eagle was said to 
bring them to his nest in order to cause the 
eggs to hatch quickly ; another proof that heat 
was associated with the stone. 

The Simurg of Persia, as we have seen, was 
a god-like bird that discussed predestination 
with King Solomon, as the Eagle of Gwernabwy 
held dialogues with King Arthur. When 
Roodabeh is about to bear Rustem, this bird 
is called in by Zal and helps the princess — 
doubtless by bringing her an aetite stone. 
The Simurg was a prophet of the good or bad 
to come, lived for fifteen hundred years and 
revived to live another fifteen centuries. This 
poetic form of the eagle lived on the mountain 
Kaf at the world's edge. He appears in India 
as the garuda, the eternal foe of the naga or 
serpent nymphs, whom he clutches in his talons 
and carries off to his eyry, just as the dark- 
colored swamp eagle seizes and feeds on ser- 
pents. His connection with the sun is plain 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

enough; for he and his brother Aruna were 
born of an egg, like Castor, Pollux and 
Helena ; but Aruna was the charioteer of the 
sun god. 

It has already been noted how Kalev the god 
who gave his name to the land of Kalevala, the 
reputed father, also, of the cuckoo hero Kale- 
vipoeg, came on the eaglets back to his own 
land and married Linda the swan. Kalev is 
the eagle himself, but in the Kalevala the more 
universal god Vaino or Pan is the chief; Kalev 
has become a mysterious giant seen in sheet 
lightning and certain constellations, who gives 
his name to the hero land. 

Kalev has various analogues in Greek mytho- 
logy, ^etes of Colchis, for instance, son of the 
sun and ocean, who robbed the golden fleece 
and was robbed of it in turn by the Argonauts. 
His daughter Medea represents Louhi the 
Hag of Pohjola, who also takes on eagle's 
shape at will, while Medea used a chariot drawn 
by dragons. The characters in the Argonaut 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

story and the Finnish legend of the robbing of 
the Sampo do not exactly fit, but the two myths 
are sufficiently close to prove a common origin 
for Sampo and golden fleece. Kaleva, if it ever 
stood for eagle in a Finnic dialect, has disap- 
peared in favor of kotkas or kokko. Now 
Achilleus seems to be a word which once had 
the eagle or dragon meaning in Greek, but 
through dislike to the use of a god's name 
gradually fell out of vogue for the creature it- 
self, just as Kaleva disappeared from Finnic. 
In the chapter on the cuckoo we have seen 
how grateful the eagle was to Vaino, that Pan 
and Orpheus of the Finns, because when Vaino 
cleared the land of woods he left the birch-tree 
standing as a perch and nesting-place for birds ; 
for this thoughtfulness the eagle brings fire 
down from heaven. Throughout the Kale- 
vala the eagle is a favorite bird simile. Ilma- 
rinen as a bridegroom is described as an eagle 
which has broken into the castle of young 

girls and seized the most beautiful of ducks. 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

When he is asked by the Hag of Pohjola to 
fetch from the river of Mana the giant pike, 
before he can have her daughter for a wife, 
he feshions an eagle of iron, steel and flame, 
which at length grapples successfully with the 
pike and lands it from the river of death. 
When he and Valno steal 
the Sampo, the H^ of 
Pohjola transforms her- 
self into a monster e^le 
and bears armed men on 
her back over the sea in 
pursuit of the marauders. 

One meets the eagle at every twist and turn. 
When Lemminkdnen foils to get an invita- 
tion to the wedding of Ilmarinen and resolves 
to know the reason why, the Hag tries to 
place obstacles in his way ; amongst others she 
causes a fiery stream to appear across hts path 
with a fiery eagle that threatens to swallow 
Lemminkainen. After he has reached Poh- 
jola, defied its inhabitants and killed the son 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

of the Hag in a duel with swordsj he flies 

home in the shape of an eagle and is pursued 

by a hawk, which is the spirit of the demon 

he has just slain. 

The kindred epic of the Esths, the Kalevi- 

poeg, has much to say concerning eagles. 

When the island maid learns who Kalevipo^ 

is, she drowns herself; her parents rake the 

bed of the sea for her, but bring up an old iron 

helmet and an eagle's egg. The island mother 

places this egg in the sun by day and warms it 

in her bed by night, until the young eagle is 

hatched, grows strong and escapes. Later she 

finds it again — but a little man is lurking 

under the eagle's wing, a dwarf who carries a 

little axe. But the little man with his little 

axe is able to fell the enormous tree which 

shuts out the sunlight from the island — that 

is to say, the primeval forest of Finland. He 

is in fact Sampsa Pellerwoinen, whom we find 

in the Kalevala as a little copper man doing 

the same miracle. It is evident that he is a 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

parable for fire, which men used to cany about 
in a copper tinder-box; fire that like the 
copper dwarf rises to a giant and does more 
than giant's work. Fire must clear away the 
forests before civilization can establish itself. 
So here again we have the eagle and fire 
brought into close connection. 

The great age ascribed to the eagle was 
known to the Welsh; only one animal out- 
ranked him, namely, the salmon of Llyn 
Llyw. The Mabinogion tales place after this 
salmon in order of longevity the eagle of 
Gwernabwy, the owl of C wm Cawlwyd, the stag 
of Rhedynvre and the black bird of Kilgwri. 
And Giraldus has preserved for us the dra- 
matic figure of the Eagle of the Eagle Moun- 
tain (now Snowdon) prophetic of wars " who, 
perching on a fatal stone every fifth holiday, 
in order to satiate her hunger with the car- 
casses of the slain, is said to expect war on that 
same day and to have almost perforated the 
stone by cleaning and sharpening her beak" ! 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

The phcenix was a symbol of the sun and 

there needs no guess to identify the phoenix 

with the eagle, especially since the eagle bums 

itself into youth ^ain 

by contact mth the sun. 

Herodotus tells how its 

picture, which he saw in 

Egypt, had feathers of 

gold and red, and in 

oudine and size was as 

nearly as possible like 

an eagle. It lives five 

hundred years, when its 

son brings its body from 

Arabia to the temple of Helios in Sun-ctty on 

the Nile. 

Phosnix the fiery red was, as we have seen 
when considering the peacock, a form of Pan, 
but we find him fiilly humanized as Phcenix 
the blind king whom the Argonauts found a 
prey to the Harpies ; later Cheiron restored 
his sight ; it was he according to Homer who 

Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

instructed Achilleus and went with him to 
Troy ; after the death of that hero he re- 
turned to Greece to fetch Pyrrhus (the fiery 
one) the son of Achilleus. 

This heroic descendant of a primitive eagle 
god, who all through the Iliad shows his 
eagle character by disputing over spoils, has 
his northern namesake in Kalev, the giant 
founder of Finland and the Esths. Nay, I 
make bold to identify the name of Achilleus 
not only with Kaleva the eagle god of Finland, 
but with the Latin word aquila, eagle. He 
was the son of Peleus the male pigeon (peleia) 
and of Thetis, a nymph of the sea, just as 
^etes, the eagle of Colchis, was a son of the 
sun born to a nymph of the ocean. All the 
brothers born before Achilleus were submitted 
to the fiery test of the young eagle ; they were 
placed by Thetis in the flames to burn out 
their mortal parts ; but they perished. Achil- 
leus also was thrust by his mother into the 
fire; but his father pulled him out. The 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

great hero of the Iliad thus begins life like a 
young eagle with the fire test and ends it with 
a fire burial, not, it is true, on a pyre kindled 
by his own hands, as Herakles did himself to 
death, but one raised by the sorrowing sur- 
vivors. The idea at bottom of his story is 
that if he had endured the fire test at birth, 
if his father had not plucked him prematurely 
from the flames in which his mother Thetis 
cast him, he would have been immortal like 
the eagle or phoenix, needing only a period- 
ical flame bath to "renew his youth like the 

We have no exact idea what the pre-Homeric 
Achilleus was, whose name and part of whose 
traits appear in the hero of the Trojan war. 
But we are not left in the dark as to the exist- 
ence of earlier beings of his name who are less 
realistic and human, more shadowy and super- 
natural. He appears as a son of Galatus re- 
markable for the whiteness of his hair, as if in 
allusion to the bald or white-headed eagle. In 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

this he suggests the white-hured, white-bearded 
Vainamoinen. Again there was an Achilleus 
the son of Zeus and Lamia, so beautiful that 
Venus became frantic with jealousy. Pan was 
called upon to judge in this pre-Homeric 
beauty contest and because he cast his vote for 
Achilleus the angry goddess changed Pan to a 
hideous goat-footed creature and made him 
fall in love with Echo, the nymph who ever 
mocks and can never be found. There was 
still another Achilleus who taught the Centaur 
Cheiron, who in turn was the teacher of the 
Homeric Achilleus. Finally there was a pris- 
tine Achilleus, the son of Earth, a primeval 
eagle of the cloudy firmament, 
to whom Hera fled when Zeus 
pursued her in the shape of a i 

cuckoo. This Achilleus per- 
suaded Hera not to fly from 
Zeus, who caught her as a cuckoo on the 
Cuckoo Mountain. He was the eagle coun- 
sellor of cuckoo gods. 

Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

In his *' Famous Islands " old Tommaso 
Porcacchi tells of the island of Crete that there 
are birds on it called caristi, which fly through 
the fire without being at all harmed — senza 
punto essere ofFesi volavano sopra la fiamma 
del fuoco. Perhaps it is a reminiscence of the 
phoenix that belonged especially to Arabia, 
Egypt and Palestine. In the oldest tombs 
discovered lately on the Upper Nile by Jacques 
de Morgan and others the phoenix is seen ris- 
ing from a bed of flames which may well mean 
the funeral pyre of the defunct. The inscrip- 
tions in question are so early that they belong 
to the period when the ceremonial of the 
mummy had not become universal in Egypt 
and the conquerors of Egypt, probably a 
swarm of metal-using foreigners fi-om the val- 
ley of the Euphrates who crossed Arabia and 
the Red Sea, were still burning the bodies 
of their chiefs and kings. The phoenix of 
these inscriptions may indicate the soul of 

the departed rising from its earthly dross, as 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

the soul of Herakles, according to the much 
later legend in its Greek form, rose from his 
funeral pyre to join the gods of Olympus. 

Our own red Indians were not behind the 
primitive Europeans and Asiatics in their 
reverence for the eagle, as any picture of a 
chief with eagles* feathers in his hair will 
testify. A deluge myth of the Dakotah 
Indians explains the origin of the red pipe- 
stone in the Minnesota quarries, a region 
sacred among red men, where the seekers after 
pipe-stone laid aside their weapons. When 
the waters rose, a mass of Indians who had fled 
to a hilltop were overwhelmed and perished on 
the spot ; it is their fossil flesh which gives the 
pipe-stone its dark-red hue. But one woman 
escaped. A great eagle, who was really her 
father, swooped down before her and she 
seized his foot, so that by his aid she reached 
a lofty mountain. From the twins she bore 
descend all the red men now on earth. 

Thus in the earliest myths of Greece, as in 
IS 225 

Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

those of America, of Italy and the Baltic we 

find the bird gods acting their parts. Is it any 

wonder that Zeus should have an attendant 

eagle, whose divinity cannot be concealed, who 

acts as messenger to bring Hebe or Gany- 

medes to act as cup-bearer to the gods and 

bears in its talons the dread thunderbolt? 

When human gods were conceived of, the 

animal gods were not dismissed, but became 

their adjuncts. It is plain enough that Zeus 

and his eagle were once the same, just as Picus 

and his woodpecker, Athene and her owl. 

Achilleus has a parallel in Wales in the 

god Lieu " light " son of Arianrhod " silver 

wheel " (a close parallel of " silver-footed " 

Thetis) and the god Gwydion. Lieu cannot 

be destroyed ; like Samson he is a sun god in 

whose armor his foes can find no flaw. But he 

has his Delilah and she tells them how to kill 

Lieu. So Achilleus the invulnerable was said 

to have been slain because he went to a tryst 

he had made with Polyxena, daughter of Priam. 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

When Lieu is wounded, he utters a loud cry 
and flies off in the shape of an eagle* 
Achilleus, like Lieu, is the descendant of Zeus 
and his sister Hera. Zeus undergoes the 
couvade, when Typhon uses on Zeus the 
sickle and cuts out his ^' tendons." This made 
Zeus helpless like a woman — the couvade. 
Here we see in Italy and Wales the traits of 
eagle and cuckoo blent in one ^tory. Achil- 
Icus is called purisoos " fiery " and ligyron 
" shrill." The first syllables of his name sug- 
gest Doric acha, "roar." At the court of 
Lycomedes on the isle of Scyros, hidden 
among girls, he was called Pyrrha from his 
golden locks. He was educated by Phoenix 
the sun hero, was hot-headed, violent and a 
terrible fighter; his sulking in his tent after 
the death of Patroklos may be the survival of 
the couvade. The contest with the river 
Scamander shows his sun origin. Now though 
Kalev does no deed like this, Kalevipoeg, his 

reputed son, has a contest with Lake Peipus. 


Tl- l[ WIB 

Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

In such myths and l^ends we see an inti- 
mate blending of an animal and a human god^ 
the bird representing that more archaic part of 
the double which descended from a very remote 
epoch, when the animal itself was worshipped 
and the idea of divine beings in the shape of 
man had not risen above the fear of the return- 
ing spirit of a magician. It seems impossible 
to believe that men who had once conceived 
of a well-ordered community of human gods 
on Olympus would have then evolved such 
barbaric and often repulsive stories about bird 
gods as we find in Greek mythology. 

Everything points to such myths as sur- 
vivals from a much ruder age. The parallel 
which may be drawn between, on the one side, 
Achilleus and his son Pyrrhus (fire) and, on 
the other, the Finnish eagle that brings fire 
from heaven, seems to demand the early exist- 
ence in Greece of a people akin in mental 
traits to Finnish tribes, a people that, so far 

from being driven out or cut off by the 


Bird Gods in Ancient Europe 

Greeks, remained in the land and gave impor- 
tant elements to Greek mythology. Similar 
phenomena are found in Italy, Scandinavia, 
Germany and the British islands ; we find them 
also on the Nile and the Euphrates. They 
represent an early movement of the mind 
toward higher things. Thdr importance for a 
correct understanding of the origins of religion 
can hardly be overstated. 


ACHILLKDS, (OH of Peleu* 
and Thetii, zii; "Achillens" 
once meant eagle, 2t6; in- 
■tructed hj Cheiron, aio; he- 
TtAe descendant of an eagle 
god, 220; his name same in 
root as Kaleva and aquila, 
220; son of male pigeon, his 
mother thnists him in flames, 
320; ends as an eagle bjr be- 
ing burned, 221 ; pre-Homeric 
forms : a son of Galatus wilh 
white hair; a son of Zeus 
and Lamia, 221 ; another who 
taught Cheiron ; a pristine 
AchUleus, son of the Earth, 
333; parallel to him in IJeu of 

Welsh legends, 226; called 
"fiery" and "shrill," violent 
eagle traits, 227; fight with 
Scamander has parallel in 
Kalevipoeg, 227. 

Adam of Bremen, on worship 
of birds by heathen Lithua- 
nians, ii I on worship of Tara- 
pilla, 172. 

Adrian's gift of jewelled pea- 
cock to the temple of Hera, 

Mxi, Island of Kirkj, 163. 

^etes of Colchis, father of 
Kirk^, she-hawk, 164 ; his 
name is Eagle, t64;fire-breatb- 
ing oxen, 199, 115,131. 


AioSi the praetor, a wood- 
pecker settled on his head, 
44; averted danger from 
Rome, 44. 

^«^^>*, zii; from oinib dove, 
Is the dove god homanued, 
15, 17; bird traits, 19; not a 
Trojan, but ally of Priam, 15. 

Aetites, eagle stones found in 
eyries, help women in labor, 
213, 214. 

Ahti, god of waters, same as 
Lemminkainen, old love god 
of Finns, 114. 

Aino, parallel of Syrinx and 
female Venns, 12; mocks 
Vaino, 13, 20; grief too great 
for marriage with old man, 
incest suggested, 126; parallel 
of Syrinx sought by Pan, 

Alcaeus, the poet, his bird name, 

Alcaius, the halcyon, heralds 

approach of Apollo in spring, 


Althamenes of Crete, fated to 
kill his father Katreus (pea- 
cock), 137. 

Amazon of Scotland, Scatach 
the " shadowy " keeps a mili- 
tary' school, 98. 

American spiders, 165 ; suggest 
swastika, 165; on shell gor- 
gets, 166 ; Indians ignorant of 
wheel, 167. 

Andromeda, Cuchullaind finds a 
princess exposed on seashore 
to monsters, 202. 

Anubis vase from Clusium, 208. 

Aoif^, daughter ci Scottish 
Amazon Scatach, her love 
affair with Cuchullaind, 98. 

Aphareus, 207. 

Aphrodite, Greek goddess of 
love, her bird the dove, the 
love bird, 6; but sometimes 
the sparrow, 7; her place in 
Italy filled by male and female 
Venuses, 12; higher sphere 
than that of old bird gods, 15 ; 
her favorite Phadn, 140 ; she 
was said to have mourned 
Adonis by leaping from Leu- 
cadian Rock, 140. 

Apollo, swan given to him, 6; 
turns Kuknos into swan, 192 ; 
heralded by Alcaius and drawn 
by swans, 200. 

Arabian Nights, swan changes 
in, 191. 

Arachn^, turned to spider by 
Pallas Athen^, 164. 

Ares, woodpecker assigned to 
him, 6. 

Argonautica, not imitated in 
Kalevala, 143. 

Aristophanes' name for wood- 
pecker, 42. 

Arthur, his talks with the Eagle 
of Gwemabwy, 214 ; his mys- 
terious origin, 96. 

Aruna, charioteer of Indra, was 
bom of an egg, 215. 

Arviella, on the swastika, 164. 

Aryans, the, xiii, xiv, xvii. 

Atossa, queen of Persia, her 
crime was that of bird gods, 
especially cuckoo gods, 109. 

Audubon, the sharp eye of, 16. 



Auk, great auk, exterminated, 


Aurora, sister of Pallas Athen^, 

Auspex on Etruscan scarab 

with bird, 43; with Roman 

legions ; at founding of Rome, 

69; Etruscan, 69. 
Awke, awkward, English words 

derived from gawk, cuckoo, 


Bacchus or Dionysos,20o; cu- 
rious connection with swan, 

Balder, shot like Lemminkainen 
and Achilleus, 199. 

Bertha of the Big Feet, a Valr 
kyr or swan maiden, 192. 

Blathmaid, ** blossom," taken 
from Cuchullaind by Curoi, 
who is slain in revenge, loa 

Briseis, captive taken from 
AchUleus, parallel in Blath- 
maid of Ireland, 99. 

Britons, the ancient, ziii. 

Buddha, xvii. 

BufEalo, swept from North 
America, xviii. 

Camesa, wife and sister of Ja- 
nus, shows cuckoo origin, 77. 

Castor, son of Leda, 207, 215. 

Ceres, turns son of Styx to 
owl, 170. 

Charon, on Etruscan coffins, 174. 

Cheiron, restored sight to 
Phoenix, 22a 

Chinese, swan enchantment, 

Christ, xvii. 

Christian soldiers destroy owl 
temple, 172. 

Ciconia, Latin word for stork* 
derived from Esth kuik, 190. 

Clusium, scarab seal found at, 
171 ; Anubis vase, 20S. 

Conanicut, 211. 

Conchobar, an old Irish hero, 
his life based on cuckoo's, 
77 > 92; robs kingdom from 
his father and marries his 
mother, 107. 

Cormac Conlingeas, son of Con* 
chobar by Nessa, 107. 

Corpse-bird, corpse-hen, names 
for owl, 155. 

Corvus, Valerius Corvus helped 
in duel by raven or crow, 46 ; 
parallels in Wales and Ireland, 

Couvade, '* brooding," custom of 
nursing the father when a child 
is bom, xvi; still existing 
among Tupis, formerly among 
Spanish Basques, 88; among 
old Irish and Persians, 89; 
explanation sought in psychol- 
ogy, but really found in imita- 
tion of birds, 90; explains 
lethargy of Ulster heroes and 
mutilation of Saturn, loS, 144. 

Cuchullaind, xvi; helped by 
two speaking ravens, 46; his 
doubtful birth, 76; regarded 
as historical by the Irish, 91 ; 
cuckoo in his name and ex- 
ploits, 92 ; was a boy named 
Setantal 92; how he got his 
second name, 93 ; survival in 



Ireland of Finnic *<Kakka- 
Und," cuckoo bird, 94; scan- 
dalous birth of Cudiullaind, 
95; cuckoo episodes and 
dates in his life, 96 ; looseness 
of his morals, 97; swells up 
in anger like a bird, 97 ; visits 
military school of Scatach, 98 ; 
his son by Scatach's daughter 
fights with and is slain by him, 
99 ; adventure with ** Blossom," 
99; uses ''sea magic," 100; 
expert with the sling, loi ; 
his odd spear, the gaebolg, 
1 01 ; understands speech of 
birds and is great bird-catcher, 
102 ; much to do with swans, 
strikes two which turn to fairy 
women, 202 ; rescues princess 
from Fomori, and she follows 
as swan, 202. 
Cuckoo, xii, 6; called gowk and 
gawk in England, Gauch in 
German, 54, 79; gives word 
gauche to French, 54, 79 ; dif- 
ferent in size, voice, and habits 
from American cuckoos, 55; 
ventriloquist, 55 ; saddled 
with crimes by old peoples, 
56 ; mother bird lays in other 
birds' nests, but does not en- 
tirely desert her young, 56; 
ancients admired its supposed 
wickedness, 57; habits of 
cuckoo and fosterage of chil- 
dren in Ireland, 57 ; young ig- 
norant of its parents and breth- 
ren, possibilities of incest, 58 ; 
in Indian Rigveda cuckoo 
prophetic and omniscient, 60; 

in Germany foretells fortune 
for the year, 60; Chaucer's 
denunciation, 61 ; converses 
with Vaino, 64; Lemmin- 
kainen's bird, 64; Scandina- 
vian rhjrme to foretell future 
by cuckoo's cry, 65 ; cuckoo- 
ale in England, 65 ; yokes of 
horses carry cuckoo in Fin- 
land, 66; colors of cuckoo, 
67 ; synonym for awkwardness, 
53; 68; form of cuckoo as- 
sumed by Zeus to make Hera, 
his sister, his wife, 68; bird 
effigies in Mashonaland per- 
haps cuckoos, 68 ; cuckoo's 
ignorance of parents and fam- 
ily the germ of stories of Sieg- 
fried, Kullervo, Kalevipoeg. 
75; Cuchullaind, Gwalchmei, 
76 ; Conchobar, Janus and 
Saturn, 77 ; Faunus, Italian 
form of Pan, 78 ; hibernation 
of cuckoos in trees, 80; rea- 
sons for laying eggs in foreign 
nests, 82 ; called Welsh ambas- 
sador, 83; " cuckoo-penners 
of Somerset," 84; cuckoo 
trait in King Arthur who has 
children by his sister, 85; 
Gwalchmei, " hawk of May," 
means the cuckoo, 86 ; use^l- 
ness of cuckoo to man, 89; 
cuckoo demigods of Ireland 
and Finland, 90. 

Curoi, King of Kerry, slain by 
Cuchullaind, 99. 

Cwm Cawlwyd, owl of, 219. 

Cygnet, a Norman word, 184. 

Cygnus musicus, Finnish ku- 



kene, little moon, 189; 
Greek myth, 193. 


DechtirA of Ulster, sister and 
wife of Conchobar, mother of 
Cuchullaind, 96. 

Deino, name of one of Graiai, 

Delos, Hyperboreans send gifts 
to Apollo's shrine on, 11. 

Diarmuid of Ireland, demigod 
with some traits like Cuchul- 
laind, 92. 

Dionysos, wine god, is a night 
god, 208 ; connection with the 
swan, 209. 

Di-oscuri, darkness gods, Castor 
and Pollux, 207. 

Dirge of the swan fowided on 
fact, 73, 183. 

Dove, the douv^ with her 
eyen meeke, 3; goes with 
Venus, 6; doves draw 
Aphrodite's chariot, 6 ; called 
" wedded turtil " by Chaucer, 
6; Christian use as symbol, 7 ; 
both for marriages and fun- 
erals, 8; prophetic doves at 
Dodona, 10; old name for 
rock pigeon in Greek is oinis, 
same root as Venus, 14, 16 ; at 
temple in Jerusalem, not 
eaten at Hierapolis, 18; 
iEneas from oinds, an old 
dove god, 19; gold image 
with dove on head at Hiera- 
polis, 20; doves at marriages 
and funerals, 21 ; on grave 
slabs of Longobards, 21 ; 
portents from, 21. 

Druid, 31. 

Drumming of woodpecker, 30; 
Lapp use of magic drum, 31. 

Duck, Labrador duck extermin- 
ated in the United States, 23. 

Diomedes, like father Tydeus 
and patroness Pallas, descends 
from an owl god, 17. 

Dodona, oak grove and doves 
gave prophetic oracles, 10; 
prophetesses tell Herodotus a 
tale, 10 : an oracle place long 
before Greeks, 11 j tributes 
to Apollo from Hyperboreans 
stopped there, 11 ; oracle told 
Greeks to use old names of 
gods, 14; dove offerings at 
Jerusalem, 18; never eaten at 
Hierapolis, Syria, 18 ; one of 
many groves seized by Greeks, 

Eagle, at very early period bird 
of Pan, 132, 145; given later 
to Zeus, 132 ; Eagle of Zenith 
of American tribes, 145 ; bird 
of fire and lightning, 210: 
symbol of five great nations, 
211; legends of immortality 
of eagle, 212; dialogue be- 
tween eagle and King Arthur, 
212; Charlemagne's bronze 
eagle, 212; a guardian of Wal- 
halla, 213; Romans called 
banners eagles, 213; stones 
found in eyries cure disease 
and help women in labor, 213; 
Simurg of Persia discussed 
predestination with Solomon, 
214 ; eagle of Gwemabwy and 




King Arthur, 214; the gamda 
of India, 214; brings Kalev 
to Esthonia, 215; Louhi 
takes eagle shape, 215 ; Achil- 
leus once had meaning of 
eagle, 216; Louhi turns into 
monstrous eagle, 217; Louhi 
makes a fiery eagle to stop 
Lemminkainen, 217 ; ' Lem- 
minkainen flees home as an 
eagle, 218 ; eagle's egg raked 
up from sea, 218 ; copper mani- 
kin appears under eagle's 
wing, 218; parable for fire, 
219; great age attributed to 
eagle, 219 ; picture of phoenix 
in Egypt was like an eagle's, 
220; Achilleus, hero, descen- 
dant of an eagle god, 221; 
same root as Kalev and 
aquila, 221 ; Achilleus, son of 
Galatus, is the white or bald- 
headed eagle, 222; earliest 
Achilleus, an eagle to whom 
Hera fled as cuckoo, 223; 
North American Indians 
revere eagle, 225; deluge 
myth of Dakotahs, an eagle 
saved the red race, 225; the 
eagle of Zeus, 226; lieu of 
Welsh legend, when killed 
flies off as eagle, 226; eagle 
combined with ideas of flame, 
227 ; eagle traits of Achilleus, 

Edward I. of England, oath on 
swan, 179. 

Eetion, his son Kupselos ex- 
posed in box, 195; Eetion 
means eagle, 196. 

Egret, white egret extirpated 
from Florida, 23. 

Elephants, slaughtered in Africa, 

Eleusinian mysteries, 29. 

Enyo, name of one of Gnuai, 

Eocho the Blue-green, monster 
overcome by CuchuUaind, 98. 

Eocho Rond, hero overcome by 
CuchuUaind, 100, loi. 

Esthonians, live as Russian sub- 
jects on Baltic, 70; sacrificed 
slaves to god Tarapilla, 172, 
173; word for "little moon," 
like cygnus, kuknos, 189; 
Kalev brought to Esthonia on 
eagle's back, 205. 

Etruscans ; Etruscan scarab with 
figure of bird seer, 43; their 
auspexes taught in Rome, 69; 
Minerva was a soul guide, 
169; tomb at Perugia, 170; 
scarab seals, 170; old belief 
of Lycian origin, 171; art 
suggests Assyria, 171; wine- 
strainers in tombs, 208; 
museum at Florence, 208. 

Fand, daughter of Mananan 
mac Ur, 202. 

Faunus, son of Picus the wood- 
pecker, 27 ; shows cuckoo by 
marrying his sister Fauna, 78 ; 
parallel of Pan in Greece, 
Vaino in Finland, Fion in 
Ireland, male Venus in Italy, 
Wunsch in Germany, 127; 
very little known of Faunus, 





Fenians ol Irdand parallels of 
Pans, Panisd and Fauni, 128. 

Flachy Irish for raven, 42. 

Ilnn mac Cool, modem Irish 
form of Pan, Vaino, Faunas, 
etc., 152. 

Finns, the,ziii; Russian subjects, 
live on Baltic, 70 ; with Esths 
worshipped owl gods, 173. 

Fion of Ireland, xvi; regarded 
as historical person, 91 ; dives 
into lake and comes up an 
aged man, 115; rescues Oisln 
from fairies, 116, 144. 

Firboigs, old subject race of 
Ireland ; fly to Ulster and re- 
turn to Connaught, 114; give 
name to pawns in chess, 114. 

Florence, 170, 208. 

Florida, egret extirpated from, 

Fomori, fog and undersea giants 

of Irish legend, 202. 

Fylfot; origin of swastika, 165. 

Garuda, Indian bird like Si- 
murg and legendary eagles, 

Gauche, French, **left hand," 
''sinister" from Teutonic name 
for cuckoo, 79. 

Gawk and gowk, Gauch, gok, 
English, German, and Swed- 
ish terms for cuckoo, 79. 

Giraldus Cambrensis on Eagle 
of Snowdon, 219. 

Goll, a giant killed by Cuchul- 
laind, 97. 

Graal, swan and knight of, recall 
Apollo, 20a 

Graialy hoaiy at Urth like cyg* 
nets, 196; swans in shape, 
one-eyed, Valkyrs, 196; their 
terrible names, 197. 

Greece, analysis of myths re- 
quires belief in early nonr 
Aryans akin to Finnic races 
who gave elements to Greek 
mythology, 228. 

Goethe on cuckoo, 60. 

Goose-flesh, to feel; its origin 
suggested, 192. 

Gorgons, watched by Graiai» 

Gubematis, ziv, 45. 

Gwalchmei, Gawayne of Britain, 
76 ; his name explained, 85. 

Gwemabwy, the eagle of, its 
great age, 219. 

Harpies and Phoenix, laa 

Harpy Tomb, 171. 

Helen, bom of tgg, 164; same 
as Selen^, moon, 203. 

Hera, peacock assigned to her, 
6; seduced by Zeus, her 
brother, under form of cuckoo, 
68, 86; carries a cuckoo on 
her sceptre, 87, 108. 

Herakles kills Kuknos, son of 
Mars, 194 ; bums himself free 
of earth like eagle, 224. 

Herodotus, his story of doves 
that founded the oracles of 
Dodona and Jupiter Ammon, 
10; ignorant of speaking 
parrots and ravens, ii ; in his 
time everything derived from 
Egypt, 12, 15; silence on 
mysteries, 29. 



Hierapolis, sacred dtj in Syria, 
dove not eaten except in rites, 
i8 ; golden image with pigeon 
on its head, 20. 

Hiisi, Finnish demon or god of 
underworld ; Lemminkainen 
catches his magic moose, 
bridles his flame horse, 199. 

Hildebrand - Hadubrand fight 
paralleled by Cachullaind, 
Rustem, Ilya of Murom, 108. 

Holy Ghost symbolized by 
dove, X. 

Hoopoe; Tereus for his crime 
turned into a hoopoe, 48; 
called the cuckoo's lackey, 

Horus of Egypt, son of Isis by 
Osiris, after the latter's death, 
118; son of the cuckoo, he 
turns into a hawk, 119. 

Huns, the, xiv. 

Hyperboreans, peoples of north- 
em Europe, 12; Apollo came 
from them at midsummer, 

IcARius, father of Penelope, 164. 

Icarus, his bird flight, 164. 

Icelanders on voice of swan, 

Idas, 207. 

Ilaeira, 207. 

Iliad, the, xii. 

Umarinen, the Vulcan of the 
Finns, a form of Pan and 
Vaino, turns his bride into a 
sea-gull, 49, 127; Lemmin- 
kainen not bidden to his wed- 
ding, 217. 

India, swastika not derived from, 

Irish; fosterage among, 57 ; soft- 
ening of gutturals in, 79; cou- 
vade among, 89; chroniclers 
made gods into historical per- 
sons, 91 ; treatise on bird 
auguries, 102; swan in leg- 
ends, 202 ; their term for pear 
cock, 133. 

Isvara, form of Siva, picks up 
red-hot iron, 174. 

Italy, destruction of birds in, 23. 

Ithaka, Telegonos lands on, 164. 

Janus shows the cuckoo by 
marrying his sister, 77. 

Japanese demon queller, 174. 

Jupiter approaches Hera as 
cuckoo, 68, 86; approaches 
Leda as swan, 203, 204. 

Kaf, mountains where the 
Simurg lives, 214. 

Kai Kaib, Persian king, his 
campaign against the white 
deevs, 103 ; bound eagles to a 
car to scale the sky, 104 ; his 
dynasty is a set of birds, 1*04. 

Kalev, god who gave name to 
Kaleva; of the race of giants, 
marries Linda, the bird, 73; 
father of Kalevipoeg, a post- 
humous son, 73; carried to 
Kalevala on back of an eagle, 
205; Linda, bom of an egg, 
prefers him, 205; Kalev is 
eagle, 215; Greek analogue in 
iEetes of Colchis, 21 5 ; Kalet«i 
old eagle god of Finland, m ; 



Kalev same in root as Achil- 
leus and Latin aquila, 221. 

Kaleva or Kalev not used now 
in Finland for "eagle," 216. 

Kaleva, the, xit; epic of the 
Finns, quoted, 39 ; gave Long- 
fellow impulse for ''Hia- 
watha," 59; on eagle and 
cuckoo, 63, 64; cuckoos on 
horse yokes, 66; shows that 
Lapps were magicians for 
Finns, 71; on fate of Aino, 
126, 127; effects of Vaino's 
harp, 142, 143. 

Kalevipoeg, hero, reputed son 
of Kalev the eagle, real son 
of Linda the bird, 73 ; parallel 
of Siegfried, 74 ; a cuckoo god, 
he dishonors his sister who 
drowns herself, 75; takes his 
reputed father's heritage by 
beating his brothers, 96. 

Kalevipoeg, the, xii ; epic of the 
Esths ; shows that Finns were 
magicians for Esths, 71 ; 
quoted for birds, 72 ; parallels 
of metals and birds, 72. 

Kalypso, parallel of Venus in 
Tannhauser legend, 40. 

Karagash, swan is kH in, 190. 

Karaku-tengu, crow-demons of 
Japan bom of egg, 46, 47, 204. 

Kemnitz in the Mark, swan 
legend, 201. 

Kilgwri, the blackbird of, its 
great age, 219. 

Kirk^, meaning of her name, 
" she-hawk," 164 ; daughter 
of eagle, 164. 

Koibal, swan is kH in, 190. 

Kuknos, xii ; Esthonian kukene 
"little moon," 189; king of 
Llgurians, 193; a son of Mars 
killed by Herakles, 194; a 
son of Neptune strangled by 
Achilleus, 195 ; legend of son 
of this Kuknos, 195. 

Kullervo, the boy of gigantic 
strength in the Kalevala; 
destroys in revenge the wife 
of his master Ilmarinen, 49: 
obscurity of his birth, 75, 76; 
a cuckoo origin to his story, 
77 ; his laziness, 84, 144. 

Kupselos, son of Eetion, set 
afloat like Moses, 195 ; a son 
of the eagle, 196. 

Kuveras, god of subterranean 
wealth, 45. 

La. Motte FouQut, Undine, 


Lapland, home of wild swan, 
190; home of singing swan, 

Lapps, xiii; still use the conjur- 
ing drum, 32 ; idols in shape 
of birds, 172. 

Leda, her bird marriage, 164; 
mother of Helen, Castor and 
Pollux, 203; same as Linda 
(bird) of the Kalevipoeg, 
203 ; Zeus approaches her as 
swan, 203; difference from 
Linda, 207. 

Lemmetar, love goddess of 
Finns, counterpart of Lem- 
minkainen, 114. 

Lemminkainen, demi-god of the 
Kalevala, a loose lover, 92; 


^ ^-pM 


originaUy a male god of love, 
97; along with Lemmetiir, 
goddess of love, 114; sent 
to hell by Louhi, he is cut 
to pieces, 115; fails to get 
invited to marriage feast, 
attacks Pohjola and kills son 
of Louhi, 217. 

Lesbos, a centre for bird heroes 
and birds associated with 
gods, 139. 

Leucadian Rock, bird worship 
and human sacrifices attach- 
ing to it, 140. 

Leukippos, 207. 

Lenkophrys, island near Troad, 

liban, daughter of Mananan 

mac Lhr, 202. 

Libya, a dove>woman flies 
thither from Egypt, la 

Ugyes, Ligurians beyond the 
Eridanus, 193; their king 
Kuknos, swan, 194, 195. 

Linda, born of an egg, she is 
mother of Kalevipoeg and 
wife of Kalev, the eagle, 
73; Linda means bird, 73; 
linda same as Leda mother 
of Pollux, 203 ; prefers Kalev 
the eagle, 205 ; her father the 
moon, uncle the sun, brothers 
the birch-trees, 206 ; is a swan, 
206, 215. 

Ldnnupete, " bird deceiver,*' pre- 
caution of Esthonians to 
guard against magic of birds, 

Lithuanians sacrificed slaves to 
birds, ix. 

Lochlan, in Irish legends, Scot- 
land or Norway, but really 
the realm below the sea, 203. 

Longobards used slabs carved 
with doves for gravestones, 21. 

Louhi of Pohjola sends Lem- 
minkainen to Tuoni for swan 
of hell, 199, 215, 216, 217. 

Lucian, 19, 20. 

Lugal-turda, bird god on the 
Euphrates, probably a cuckoo 
god, 105. 

Luig, Finn and Esth term for 
swan, 190; origin of name of 
Ligyes, Ligurians, 193. 

Lynceus, 207. 

Mahabharata, the, xii. 

Mana, king of under-world, 161, 

Mananan mac Lir, in Irish 
legend fairy king of sea, 202 ; 
his daughters or wives Fand 
and Liban, 202. 

Mars (Mavors), his bird was the 
woodpecker, 27 ; his sons 
Romulus and Remus saved by 
woodpecker, 27; bird was 
known by his name, 41 ; Pallas 
Athen^ conquers him, 176. 

Mashonaland, bird effigies in 
ruins of Zimbabwe, 30. 

Matiena, Sabine bird gods at, 30. 

Meave, Irish form of Mab, fairy 
queen of Ulster, deserts her 
husband Conchobar, 107. 

Mecklenburg, idols with birds 
on heads found in, 20; Radi- 
gast, god of heathens, 188 ; 
bull's head in arms of, 186. 



Medea in Argonaatica, parallel 
of Louhi the Hag of Pohjola 
in Kalevala, 216. 

Megarians claim Tereus and 
honor him as a god, 31. 

Minerva, in Etruscan " heavens- 
red," 160. 

Minervalia, five-day festival in 
March, 167. 

Modred, a son of King Arthur, 

Mohammed, xvii. 

Moses, xvii, 195. 

Miiller, Max, on the swastika, 

Munnapoika, Finnish ''son of 
^Sg'" ^ modem variant on 
Kullervo, 84. 

Narragansett Pier, 210. 

Neptune turns Kuknos, his son, 
into a swan, 195. 

Nessa, queen of Ulster, has 
Cormac Conlingeas by her 
own son Conchobar, 107. 

Niurenius, on bird idols of 
Lapps, 172. 

Nyyrikki, son of Tapio, Finnic 
god of forests, is the red- 
headed woodpecker, 39. 

Odusseus, xii; Greek etymology 
for his name, 162; Etruscan 
form, 163; Sikulian, 163; 
meaning, 163 ; owl traits, 163 ; 
cuckoo traits in his son by 
Kirk^, 164 ; his wife Penelope 
a daughter and sister of birds, 

Odyssey, the, xii. 

16 241 

Oesel, island in Baltic, 172; 
bird god and temple, 172, 189. 

Oidipous, son of Laius and 
Jocasta, xii; his crimes are 
cuckoo crimes, 1 10 ; accord- 
ing to Pausanias he was half- 
brother to .the Sphinx, 1 1 1 ; 
his story in a modem Estho- 
nian folktale, 112. 

Oinis, old word for rock pigeon 
in Greek, 14; probably Pelas- 
gian, 14 ; same root as Venus 
and iEneas, 15, 16. 

Oistn of Ireland, 91 ; kept by 
fairies in cave, 116. 

Orpheus, xii ; with other Argo- 
nauts has dim resemblances to 
heroes of Kalevala, 143; 
especially Vaino, 144; ex- 
plains through analogy of 
Vaino the nature of Pan, 142, 
144, 145, 216. 

Orphic mysteries, 29. 

Orte, bronze Minerva found at, 


Osiris, chopped to pieces Uke 
Lemminkainen, 115, 199. 

Ostrich, in Bible, 146. 

Oulixes, Sikulian and early form 
of Ulysses, 163. 

Ovid on the woodpecker on a 
pillar, 29. 

Owl, Minerva's bird, xi; and 
Pallas Athene's, 6; sphinxes 
of helmet of Pallas Athen^ in 
Athens took the place of owl 
figures. III; owls for sale in 
Rome's streets, 150; small 
owl generally called she, 151, 
152; Australian blacks think 



owls women, 151 ; in the 
Bible was abomination to eat, 
152; Shakespeare denounces 
owl, 153; Minerva turns 
Nyctimen^ into an owl for 
incest, 154; Blodeued became 
owl for betraying her husband, 
154; on Athenian coins, 155; 
usefulness and ferocity, 156; 
luctifer, 157; glaux, 157; 
Miner valia an owl festival 167 ; 
in Rigveda, 168; throttle 
babies, 168; nine calls, 168; 
Minerva early evolved from 
owl, 169; Tarapilla, Baltic 
owl-god on island of Oesel, 
172; Palladium may have 
been owl idol, 173; early 
Pallas an owl, 173; owl gods 
of Lapps, etc., 173 ; a weaver 
in German ballads, 176; owl 
gods of Livonians, 188; eggs 
of owl stop drunkenness, 
209; owl of Cwm Cawlwyd, 

Palladium, stolen from Troy, 
163; shaped like an animal, 

Pallas Athen^, xii; owl is her 

bird, 6 ; glaukdpis, 157 ; wis- 
dom, 157; her serpent, 158; 
cock, 1 58 ; deity of night, 1 59 ; 
ornaments of helmet, 160 ; 
form of Selen^, 160 ; sister of 
Aurora, 160; origin of name 
Pallas, 160; descent from 
Pan, 160; epithets Paionia 
and Pandrosos, 160 ; why 
born of Jove's head, 161 ; 

early worship like that of 
Finns, 173; origin of fame as 
weaver, 176 ; contrasts in her 
worship, 175; quarrels with 
Poseidon, Ares, Hera, Aphro- 
dite, 177 ; owl traits, 177. 

Pallas, giant prototype of Pallas 
Athene, 173. 

Pan, xii ; oracle at Dodona 
originally his, 13 ; in Germany 
his paraUel was Wunsch, 22 ; 
Pan in one part of Greece 
called Phan, 128; root of 
name in phoenix, Phoenicia, 
128; older god in Greece 
than Zeus, Hera, Apollo, Mer- 
cury, 129; older Turanian 
form is Paian, Pai^dn, healer 
god in Iliad, 129; not neces- 
sarily a goat-foot originally, 
131, 161 ; Greek way of express- 
ing rudeness of Arcadians, 131 ; 
gave up his birds to Zeus and 
Hera, 132 ; gave his name to 
peacock, 132; in Old Ireland 
represented by Fion, now Finn 
mac Cool, 132; lo Paian in 
Apollo's temples retained 
Pan's name, 134; Phadn the 
sanae as Pan, 141 ; mysterious 
god, degraded by Greeks, 
141 ; his character and ad- 
ventures hid under Orpheus, 
142 ; primitive Turanian god, 

Pandion, king of Arcadia and 
Athens, 48 ; a human form of 
Pan, 160. 

Pausanias on the sphinx, no; 
on serpent of Pallas, 158. 



Feacocky xi; assigned to Hera, 
6, 124; falsely said to have 
reached Greece under Alexan- 
der, Solomon imported them, 
124; Chinese reverence for 
them, 124; became bird of 
Pan, taking its name from 
him, 132 ; name in many lan- 
guages means sun, 133, 137 j 
Greek name for peacock taken 
from Persian t&wiis, 133; 
hunmiing noise of its feathers, 
134; on coins of Samos, 135; 
jewelled peacock offered to 
Hera by Emperor Adrian, 
136; katreus a name for 
the peacock, also name of 
a Cretan king, 137 ; peacocks 
owned by Vikingers, 138, 
180 ; oath on the peacock, 
138 ; peacock became wicked 
to Christians from connection 
with heathen, 146; no such 
prejudice in Old Testament, 

P^dauque, la Reine P^dauque, 
a swan goddess, 192. 

Pelasgians, general term for 
races about the iEgean before 
the Greek, 8 ; also Pelargians 
as if the ** stork people," 
9; oracle at Dodona was 
Pelasgian, 11 ; Herodotus 
wrong in saying they had 
no names for gods, 14 ; Pelas- 
gian or non-Aryan race of 
Syria, 19. 

Peleia, msde pigeon, the ''qua- 
ker," found in Pelops, " dove 
face,'* and Peleus, 16. 

Peleus, father of Achilleus, his 
name means male pigeon 
(peleia), 221. 

Pelican, stupid bird taken up 
for crests over coats of arms, 

Pelops, not from pel6s dark, but 

peleia male pigeon, his name 

means " Dove Face," 16. 

Penelope, bird origin of, 164. 

Peony, plant of Pan and the 
sun, a magic plant, 40. 

Pephredo, name of one of the 
Graiai, 197. 

Persian heroes, 103, 104, 106; 
legends of swan enchantments, 

Perugia, tomb with owls and 
serpents, 170. 

Perun, old Russian god of thun- 
der, 21. 

Philomela turned to nightingale, 

Phoebe, 207. 

Phoenix, fabulous bird that 
burned itself periodically, was 
the eagle, description of 
picture in Herodotus, 220; a 
form of Pan, 220 ; humanized 
as the blind king pursued by 
harpies, 220. 

Phoinikoi retain Pan's name, 
136 ; brought the phoenix and 
paan the peacock to Asia 
Minor and Europe, 137. 

Pica, the magpie, 42. 

Picus, old Italian god, xii ; was 
the woodpecker, 25 ; his Italiot 
worshippers like Lapps and 
Finns, 32; figured as youth 



with woodpecker on head, 
41 ; a Greek form was Tereus, 
49, 51 ; in Old Prussia as 
Picollus, 50; marries Canens 
(singer) daughter of Janus> 
78 ; his fiither Saturn and his 
son Faunus show the cuckoo 
crime, 78; son Kuknos killed 
by Heiakles, 194. 

Pikker or Pikn^, thunder god of 
Esthonians, 54; parallel of 
Picus in Italy, 34; prayer to 
Pikker, 38; later views of 
Pikker in Esthonian stories, 
41 ; Prussian parallel in Picol- 
lus, 50 ; early separation from 
Vaino, Lemminkainen and 
Ilmarinen, 127. 

Pittacus, the philosopher, his 
bird name, 139. 

Plato, dreamt Sokrates fled to 
his bosom as a swan, 194. 

Pliny on the woodpecker as a 
prophetic bird, 41 ; meaning 
for strix, 168. 

Polish sounds twitteringly, 50. 

Pollux, his bird birth, 164, 215. 

Priam of Troy, Pelasgians his 
allies, 9. 

Procn^ turned to swallow, 48. 

Ptolemies, marriage of brother 
and sister, result of bird god 
worship, 109; cuckoo traits 
in their line, 120. 

Pythagoras, the mystic, his bird- 
like traits, 139. 

Radigast, god of old Slavonic 
race, in Mecklenburg with 
head of beast, 188 ; swan or 

goose hbbird, 188 ; his region 
the swan's haunt, 201. 

Rasavfthini, his idea that beasts 
remember former benefits, 

Rauen, the princess in the rock 
at, 40. 

Raven, name of Gaul who 
sacked Rome, 45 ; raven or 
crow assists Valerius in com- 
bat, 46; ravens Hugin and 
Mugin, 46. 

Rhea, sister and wife of Saturn 
shows cuckoo origin, 77, 108. 

Rhedynvre, the stag of, its great 
age, 219. 

Rhetra, site of old Vendish tem- 
ple, 187, 201. 

Rhys, Professor, derives Fand 
from Latin unda, 202. 

Rigveda on the cuckoo, 60 ; 
prayer at call of owl, 168. 

Romulus and Remus saved by 
woodpecker, 27. 

Roodabeh, mother of Rustem, 
her labor helped by the 
Simurg, 214. 

Rugen, island of Baltic, swan 
brings babies from, like stork, 

Rustem, son of Zal, saves Per- 
sian heroes from effect of 
couvade, 104; his birth as- 
sisted by the Simurg, 103, 
214 ; has same adventures as 
Cuchullaind, fights with his 
own son, 106. 

Sabines worshipped wood- 
pecker, 29. 



Salm^, in the Kalevipoeg, sister 
to linda the bird, turns 
human from being a pullet, 

Samoyeds, their use of magic 

tabor or drum, 32. 

Sampo, a talisman and wonder- 
working thing, 71 ; connection 
with Sappho and Shamas 
(sun), 140; Sampo at bottom 
the same as the Golden 
Fleece, 216, 217. 

Sappho, zii ; suggestion of bird 
in her legend, 140; perhaps 
her name connected with 
Shamas, sun god, and Sampo, 
140 ; threw herself from Leu- 
cadian Rock for Pha6n's 
sake, 140. 

Saturn shows the cuckoo by 
marrying his sister, 77, 108; 
his mutilation explained 
through couvade, 108. 

Scatach, the "shadowy," Ama- 
zon who keeps a military 
school in Scotland, 98. 

Schwan-federn, German expres- 
sion, 191. 

Schwartz on lightning symbo- 
lized as dragon or snake, ix. 

Selen^, moon, 160. 

Semite, the, xvii. 

Setanta, originally the name of 
Cuchullaind of Ireland, 92; 
his prowess as a boy, 93. 

Setnau, Egyptian tale of, story 
of brother and sister forced to 
marry, 119. 

Shah Nameh, the, xii ; bird and 
cvckoo heroes in, 102, 106. 

Shannon River, name explained 
through Finnic roots, 1 13. 

Siberia, home of swan, 190. 

Siegfried, parallel in Kalevipoeg, 
74; dishonors his sister, 75 ; a 
cuckoo god, 75. 

Sigurd, his story repeated in 
Siegfried, 75; is a cuckoo 
god, 106. 

Sikulian name for Ulysses, 163. 

Simurg, fabulous bird in Persia, 
fosters Zal, 103 ; is called in 
to help Roodabeh in child- 
birth, 103; argues with Solo- 
mon, 214. 

Slavic nations, favorers of 
cuckoo, 116. 

Snowdon, the Eagle of the 
Eagle Mountains, 219. 

Sokrates in dream flies as swan 
into Plato's bosom, 194. 

Solomon discusses predestina- 
tion with the Simurg, 214. 

Specht, German for woodpecker, 
parallel of Pikker, name of 
old bird god, 42. 

Sphinx supposed by Pausanias 
to be a monstrous child of 
Laius, III ; used by Greeks 
as decoration in place of owl, 

Spider; cross, a shorthand pic- 
ture of spider, 165 ; on Indian 
shell gorgets, 165 ; American, 
European, Asian, 165 ; foretell 
ruin of Thebes, 166; symbol 
of weaving 166; cross on 
back, origin of swastika, 167. 

Spiegel, his edition of Rasavft- 
hini, xiv. 



Spimiiiii^ whofls with swastika 

marin, 165. 
Stheneleasy Either of Koknos 

king of the Lignrians, 193. 
Stork, Latin ciconia from Finnic 

kuik, 190 ; swan brings babies 

instead c^ stork in Rtigen, 

Subhramanya, son of Vishnu 

ol India, god attended bj the 

peacock, 123. 

Suometar, Finnish swan maiden 
193 ; bom of goose ^g, 193. 

Swan, zi ; Apollo's bird, 6; often 
mentioned in Kalevipoeg, 72 ; 
one variety sings when dying, 
73; oath on, 179; "I swan," 
180 ; English and Cverman 
phrase " it swans to me," 181 ; 
Order of Swan, 181 ; favorite 
in heraldry, 182; with sha- 
mans, 182; feather is magical, 
182; musical variety, 183; 
" game " of swans, 184 ; Norse 
words for swan and fairy simi- 
lar, 185; Elbe River perhaps 
named from swan, 186 ; sacred 
bird in Edda, 187; swan on 
head of idol Radigast, 188, 
201 ; night and moon god, 
189; kuik and luig in Estho- 
nian, 190 ; sacred bird in Cen- 
tral Asia, 190 ; swan maidens, 
191; swan legends of Kuknos, 
son of Neptune, 195; of the 
Graiai, 196 ; in Riigen acts 
like stork, 197 ; musical voices, 
198 ; quarrelsome bird, 198 ; 
night flier, 198; swan of hell 
in Kalevala, 198; symbol of 

Apollo and Baodras, aoo; 
foretdls death, 201; in Irish 
legend, ao2 ; Jupiter ap- 
proaches Leda as, 203, 204, 
205 ; genius of wine widi 
swan's head for cap, 208. 

Swannery, a royal preroga- 
tive, 184; Lord Ilchester's, 

"Swanny," exclamation, or^;in 
shown, 180. 

Swanskin found by swan maiden, 
she flies away, 191, 202. 

Swastika, its origin found in 
cross on back of spiders* 165; 
whence a sign for weaving 
and woven things, 166 ; when 
on figures of terra cotta, etc. 
refers to clothing, 167. 

Syrinx, 2a 

Tapio, Finnish god of woods, 
38 ; mentioned as Nyyrikki in 
Kalevala, 39; he is a survival 
of Pikker, 39^ 

Tara's hill in Ireland parallel 
to Taara's hill in Esthland, 

Tarapilla means owl in Finnish, 

172 ; god flew as owl to Oesel, 
172 ; Adam of Bremen on wor- 
ship of, 173 ; his red-hot iron 
shaft, 174. 

Tarhapollo, Finnish name for 
owl, 172; poUd same root as 
Pallas, 175. 

Tatar, swapping of the swan, 

Tiw^,Persian word for peacock* 
origin of Greek term, 133. 



Tereus changed to hoopoe or 
hawk, 48; his name means 
piercer, a form of Picus the 
woodpecker, 48. 

Tikka, modem Finnic term for 
woodpecker, 38. 

Tdnn, tonndi, underground de- 
mons of the Finns and Esths, 

Tuiatha d^ Danann, mythical 

magical early race in Ireland 

means "Folk of the Dark 

Gods/' 113. 

Tundareos, mortal father of 
Helen, 164; the woodpecker, 
164; from root like tundo to 
strike, 207. 

Tuoni, Finnish hell, swan of 
Tuoni, 199. 

Turanians, their gods assumed 
by Greeks, 175 ; Vaino, Turan- 
ian parallel of Pan-Orpheus, 

Turkestan, home of swan, 19a 

Turks, the, xiii. 

Ukko, Finnish and Esthonian 
highest god similar to Zeus, 
13; woodpecker was his 
special creation, 37. 

Uluxe, Etruscan and early Greek 
form of Ulysses, 163. 

Ulysses, his name in Etruscan, 
162 ; in Sikulian, 163 ; named 
from cry of owl, 163; his 
adventures often nocturnal, 
163 ; his wife of bird descent, 
164 ; has a son by '' she-hawk " 
who like a cuckoo kills his 
father, 164. 

Unda, same root as Fand daugh- 
ter Mananan mac lir of Ire- 
land, 202. 

Undine, Fouqu^'s tale of, same 
as Irish Fand, 202. 

Untamo, in the Kalevala the 
uncle and father of Kullervo, 
76, 77, 106. 

Urda, well of, in Edda, 187. 

Vaino or Vainamoinen, old god 
of Kalevala, xvi; parallel of 
male Venus of Italy, catches 
Aino as a fish, 13 ; bom of the 
sea like Venus, 13; like 
Venus, double trait of mar- 
riage and funeral celebrant, 20^ 
21 ; parallels with Orpheus, 
142, 144; his adventures for 
the Sampo dimly like Argo- 
naut expedition, 143. 

Valkyrs, swan maidens are 
Valkyrs, 192; conductors of 
souls, 192; Graiai were Val- 
kyrs, 196; modem Valkyrs in 
Mecklenburg, 201 ; Leda a 
swan-valkyr, 207. 

Velleda, a female wizard or 
prophetess in Germany, 31. 

Vendish sounds twitteringly, 50. 

Venezuela, egret soon be extri- 
pated there, 23. 

Venus, xii ; her symbol the 
dove, 6; sparrow also given 
to her, 7 ; her worship only 
apparently the opposite of 
death, 8; male as well as 
female Venus in Italy, 12; 
parallel of male Venus is 
Finnic Vaino, of female, Fin- 


► •1